A Brief History of Christmas Decorations

With Christmas nearly upon us, many of us have decorated our houses with all manner of decorations from lights to tinsels and garlands. While we may consider these decorations to be routine, they have an interesting history in how they became tradition. Here are brief histories of some of the common decorations used during the holiday season, which may just inspire you to decorate your own barn home.

Christmas Tree

The use of evergreen trees in winter celebrations has a history stretching back into the ancient world. Since evergreen trees retain their leaves through all seasons, they were used to symbolize eternal life in ancient Egyptian, Chinese and Hebrew culture. At least by the time of the Renaissance, evergreen trees began to be used as Christmas trees. The tradition started in Protestant communities of the upper Rhineland, and did not spread to Catholic communities until the 19th century. In the 18th century, upper-class families would decorate their trees with candles. Wax candles were relatively expensive at the time, so lighting a tree for ornamentation was a sign of wealth. The Christmas tree tradition did not take hold in the United Kingdom until the Victorian era. Victoria had a tree placed in her room every Christmas as a child, and her marriage to Albert, who was German, helped increase the prominence of the tree in Christmas celebrations. Paintings published in the 1840s of Victoria and her family around their tree helped spread the tradition in America as well.

Christmas Decorations

Purcellville, VA (5940) view of great room with large fireplace

Initially, Christmas decorations were limited to decorating the tree, and only later spread to outside decorations. The first tree decorations were almost all types of food, with apples, popcorn garland, and pastries shaped into stars and other shapes being popular choices. Candy canes were also used, but they were originally completely white. Glass Christmas ornaments came much later, with the common glass bauble originating in Lauscha, Germany in 1847. Once again, the images of Victoria and her trees decorated with these ornaments caused them to explode in popularity in the English-speaking world. Woolworth’s began importing the ornaments to America in 1880s, when domestic production could not meet demand.


Prior to the 20th century, and the advent of safer and lower-maintenance electrical lights, decorative lights were only used on Christmas trees and only indoors. The first outside tree decorated with lights was in San Diego in 1904. It remained an isolated practice until the 1950s, when McAdenville, North Carolina was credited with starting the tradition of large, outdoor tree decorations. With the large post-war boom in tract housing, lights also became a popular way to decorate the houses themselves around this time. If you have any question on any of the homes pictured here, please contact Timberpeg to learn more.  And no matter how you decorate a barn home, be it with lights and tinsel, or the graceful coating of snow and frost – there is no finer place to gather than with family and friends in the warm comfort of home.  We wish you and your family a very safe, beautiful and happy Christmas.