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Happy Holiday 2017-Where do the holiday decorations originate?

Christmas Ornament
Christmas Ornament

Happy Holidays to all DesignDestinations.org Readers

It’s a funny time of year for me. Bittersweet. Missing those not with us. Remembering holidays of yesteryear. At the same time I love the new traditions being established and memories made. I try to remember advice from the Buddha.

The Buddha says: “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” 

One constant is my love of holiday decor and music. I’ll never get tired of observing and enjoying how people here and around the world recognize this festive season with lights, decor, symbols and sometimes goofy stuff.

Neighborhood decor
Neighborhood decor in Grand Rapids, MI
Window display in Hong Kong
Window display in Hong Kong

This year it occurred to me that I have no idea where many of the traditions so enthusiastically celebrated originate, so of course, I headed to Google. I’ve combined some of what I learned with photos I’ve taken as I learn to be a better photographer.

What do your Holiday Decorations Say about you?

Probably the most intriguing post was titled what do your holiday decorations say about you? Your “style” reveals more than you think, but that’s a whole blog post.  Maybe I’ll tackle that question next year.

Interesting to me for this post is that I learned that decorating your home with vibrant lights is a way to communicate “neighborliness.” Many times the decor reveals the wish to be connected with the neighbors.

Neighborly Decor
Neighborly Decor
Neighborly Decor
Neighborly Decor
My favorite holiday decor
My all time favorite holiday house decor.  Love seeing this one every year.
Elegant Mansion Decor
Elegant Mansion in East Grand Rapids, MI

So, try not to snicker when you see the overdone ones. The intentions are admirable.

Holiday Decor --too much?
Holiday Decor –too much?

 Relive the Magic

One psychologist claims that the earlier you put up Christmas decorations, the happier a person you are likely to be.

According to Steve McKeown, “In a world full of stress and anxiety, people like to associate to things that make them happy and Christmas decorations evoke those strong feelings of childhood.”

I’m not sure if these were put up early but they certainly make me feel happy.

Thinking of Florida in Michigan
Thinking of Florida in Michigan
Shopping Center Decor
Shopping Center Decor
Makes me laugh--Broadway Bar, Grand Rapids
Makes me laugh–Broadway Bar, Grand Rapids

Let’s Decorate

The custom of affixing fruits, vegetables, dried flowers, herbs and other plant life to wreaths, swags and roping traces it’s roots to homes at the beginning of the 20th century. Colonial Williamsburg picked up on the trend and made it popular around 1936.

This expanded to pots and planters  which morphed to all kinds of variations.

Minimalist Ourdoor decor
Minimalist Ourdoor decor
Holiday decor in Hong Kong
Over the Top Holiday decor in Hong Kong

Connections

Perhaps putting up decor reminds one of a lost loved one and when they were alive. Sure does me. I miss my Mom particularly at Christmas because she loved, loved, loved Christmas. We couldn’t decorate too much, buy too many presents or sing too many silly songs.

Holidays with Mom
Holidays with Mom

Decorating helps me to feel connected to her. I’m wondering if any readers can relate.

Christmas Tree Tradition

No one knows exactly when trees were first used but the general consensus is that it was 1000 years ago in Northern Europe. The modern day practice grew in popularity when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert installed a tree at Windsor Castle and then used it surrounded with presents as a back drop for a royal portrait. The woodcut was published in Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1848 and the practice exploded.

Holiday Tree at Meijer Gardens, Grand Rapids
Holiday Tree at Meijer Gardens, Grand Rapids
Decorating the tree
Decorating the tree in her own style

 I found two different accounts of first electric lights

The first version is that outdoor Christmas lights were developed when the American Insurance companies tried to get a law passed banishing them because of the fires candles with real flames started. In 1895 an American, Ralph Morris invented the electric lights, popular today.

A second version is that Thomas Edison’s assistant, Edward Johnson, was the clever person who dreamed up electric Christmas tree lights. In 1882, not long after Edison had invented the light bulb, Johnson hung a string of 80 red, white, and blue bulbs on the tree in his New York City home and invited journalists to come and gawk at the illuminations.

Holiday Lights in Ada, MI
Holiday Lights in Ada, MI
Holiday Lights in Texas
Holiday Lights in Johnson City, Texas

Table Top Holiday Decor

I personally love table top decor. Don’t know the history of holiday decor, but I did find out that using centerpieces became more of a thing when the idea of a buffet luncheon or dinner started to take off in the 1920s-30s as a new trend. Instead of putting all the dishes out family style and passing them around, or in wealthier households having someone pass or plate the dishes for you, people put the food on a separate surface and brought their plates back to the tables. That left a gap in the middle of the table. A creative hostess plunked down some flowers and a tradition was started.

Holiday Table Top Decor
Holiday Table Top Decor
Holiday Table Top Decor
Holiday Table Top Decor
Holiday Table Top Decor
Holiday Table Top Decor

Upside Down Christmas Trees

It’s actually not new. I learned that hanging fir trees upside down goes back to the Middle Ages, when Europeans did it to represent the Trinity. But now, Christmas trees are shaped with the tip pointing to heaven, and some think an upside-down Christmas tree is disrespectful or sacrilegious.

The trees were recently introduced to retailers for in-store displays, so more ornaments could be displayed at eye level to the buying public. And they left more floor space to hold extra stock of decorations.

Some conservatives see upside-down trees as yet more proof of liberals’ politically correct war on Christian traditions. “It’s like an upside-down world … the bizarro world,” said Corey Lewandowski, President Trump’s former campaign manager.

Make of that what you will. Happy Holidays– upside down or not.

Found image on Pinterest
Found image on Pinterest
Found image on Pinterest
Found image on Pinterest

 

Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.

Comments

12 Comments
  1. posted by
    Margaret Idema
    Dec 24, 2017 Reply

    An interesting blog…love all the many clever and creative expressions in Holiday decorating (and yes, I did notice my table from the other night!). I’ve been thinking about what it was like being in Vienna last December. While I do enjoy the sometimes overdone Holiday decorating in this country, I also loved the simpler and “earthy” way the Austrians do it with their Christmas market stalls everywhere and the tradition of drinking warm “grog” while standing around outside celebrating with family and friends.

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Dec 26, 2017 Reply

      Oh, I love that this generated thoughts of decor in other places around the world. Sounds like you had a great trip to Vienna. It’s on my bucket list.

  2. posted by
    Peggy
    Dec 25, 2017 Reply

    Christmas memories are very powerful and flex with time. Our grandmother was a key figure in a household with 9 children closely spaced. She would be the one up at the crack of dawn going from bedroom to bedroom whispering Merry Christmas; it was then time to let the “wild ruckus” begin.
    We’ve been very traditional in our household with the live tree, stockings, candlelight, greens and ornaments representing the stories of our lives through the decades. We tend to relive our history as a family year after year through the symbolic selections that have always ornamented our Christmas trees.
    Really interesting blog, Susan.

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Dec 26, 2017 Reply

      I’m glad you enjoyed, Peggy. I love your description of your grandmother visiting each of you before the “wild ruckus” as you call it. Thank you so much for sharing.

  3. posted by
    Jeff Bangsberg
    Dec 25, 2017 Reply

    I especially like the photo of you and your mother. We miss her as well.
    Merry Christmas. Your cousin.

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Dec 26, 2017 Reply

      Thank you for your comment, Jeff. So nice to hear from you. Hope you and Anita are having a happy and healthy holiday.

  4. posted by
    Mary lockrow
    Dec 26, 2017 Reply

    Love this blog! And the picture of your mom! So many memories of my moms beautiful cookies…..my sister Susan always got the angels as an artist whose cookies were exquisite! Divinity petit fours and our families yearly taffy pull were memories so relished! Times were simpler for sure but as I watched my adult children relish our own traditions it made me happy to wonder what traditions they will share with their families! I’m thinking of shaking it up with the upside down tree! Love it all and love each other! Susan and mom….. my cookies do taste good!! But gorgeous goes to you two!

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Dec 26, 2017 Reply

      If you do an upside down tree, please invite me or over or send a photo. I’d love to see. I’ll bet it will be creative and fun.

  5. posted by
    Ann
    Dec 28, 2017 Reply

    Hey, Susan, am I right? I don’t see a blog post about Boston. Nor New Hampshire? Please come see us, camera in hand. Happy New Year!!

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Dec 30, 2017 Reply

      You are right. Guess I haven’t been there in the seven years since I started my blog. Would love to visit. Thank you for the invitation.

  6. posted by
    Judy Bereza
    Dec 30, 2017 Reply

    The Christmas present house is my favorite as well. Loved your festive table. Miniature Christmas trees in the middle – fun and creative contrast to the expected flowers. Thanks for the tour of Christmas traditions and personal memories. As for memories, I have no memory of your mother when
    she wasn’t smiling.

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Dec 31, 2017 Reply

      Thank you so much for your comment Judy. I appreciate your comment about Mother.

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