This post is part of a series: 7 Christmas traditions (7/7)

Tinsel | 7 Christmas traditions

Christmas is a time of tradition and ritual, such as singing “We wish you a merry Christmas” to the Christmas pudding as it emerges, alight, into the dining room… (OK, so that’s a personal tradition, but I have only just found this out. I thought everyone did this up until last year!)

Every day until now, we’ve been explaining where and why various Christmas traditions came about. Today (Christmas Eve), we’re finishing with tinsel!

Tinsel | Germany

Lots of tinsel

There is nothing more Christmassy than the smell of tinsel! If you’ve never really smelt it, go on, get your nose right in there! I have the Germans to thank for this. The original idea, back in 1610, was to make Christmas decorations that looked like icicles or ice.

Christmas tree covered in tinsel

When it was first created, in Nuremberg, it was made from real silver (now that’s decadent!) The problem with that was that it tarnished quickly, and the amount of time you would have to spend polishing tinsel would be ridiculous! So, alternative materials were used, and up until the First World War, France was the world leader in tinsel production. (Incidentally, the word tinsel comes from the French world “estincele” which means sparkle!)

Blue and purple tinsel

In the 50s, a lot of tinsel was made out of lead foil. Merry Christmas, have some lead poisoning! Although it was never declared an official health hazard, it wasn’t ideal, and once the risk was recognised, lead tinsel stopped being produced.

These days tinsel is made from PVC finished with metallic coat. It is said that this plastic tinsel doesn’t hang so well, but I think I would prefer this to having to polish my tinsel, or have it poisoning me!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AG4BPNvayWo

Photo credits: Alison’s Imagination and Jo Naylor

7 Christmas traditions

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About Lizzie Brooks

Lizzie Brooks

The most beautiful place I have been (so far!) has been Norway. Coming in to land in Oslo was like coming in to land in a fairytale; pine trees that looked like velvet amongst frozen fjords, the occasional wisp of smoke coming up from a little yellow or red house within the trees. Beautiful!

I kind of expected to see a Moomin emerging (but they are from Finland, of course).

Lizzie works in our marketing team

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  • Don

    My grandparents did tinsel, and their tree looked amazing. Lot of lights and tinsel, and the tinsel was hung perfectly each year.