Who is Hans Greiner? History of Christmas Baubles (Ornaments)
It has become a very common holiday tradition for most families, at least here in America, to decorate the Christmas tree with a variety of ornaments in different shapes, sizes and materials. Some ornaments resemble fruit like grapes or pickles and some take the form of Santa Claus or Christmas elves and gnomes. Some ornaments even remind us of our favorite movies or tv shows, while some are reminders of major life events. Well, the tradition of hanging ornaments is well known to most but the origin and history of the Christmas ornament is much lesser known .
Before we go through the history and origin of the Christmas ornament I feel it prudent to briefly discuss the origin of the modern Christmas tree itself. Christmas trees as we know them today are widely thought to have originated in Germany in the 16th century. The German people would typically bring small evergreen trees into the household and decorate them. However, at this time the trees were mostly decorated with candles, apples, nuts and berries. It wasn’t long after that when Christmas began to use these trees during the holiday season. Soon, they became a Christian and Christmas tradition in Germany. This tradition quickly spread form Germany to most on Europe. Eventually, as German immigrants made their way to America, the tradition gained a foothold in America, at least in the German communities. Once Queen Victoria and her family were seen celebrating with a Christmas tree, Americans at large started adopting the Christmas tradition (around the 1840s).
Now, around the same time (1800s) in Germany a glass blower named Hans Greiner started blowing glass ornaments by hand. It has been suggested that he was actually unable to afford apples to decorate his own Christmas tree with at the time. As a professional glass blower he decided to make his own glass apples, which he called baubles, to adorn his tree with. Soon, those who said his hand blown glass baubles (ornaments) put in orders for their own glass fruit ornaments. It was not long before local businesses realized the enormous monetary potential value that Christmas ornaments carried, and soon ornaments became a big part of celebrating Christmas and decorating Christmas trees.
Now lets change location and fast-forward to the 1890’s, the American department store Woolsworth starts importing and selling German glass Christmas ornaments. Woolsworth sold more than $25 million dollars worth of ornaments that year and years after. It did not take long after that before other countries also wanted a piece of the ornament market. Soon other countries like Japan started producing glass ornaments in massive quantities. What started as a few hand-made glass ornaments made by a single glass blower named Hans soon grew into a mass produced production line of ornaments selling multi-millions dollars worth of ornaments every year.
I wonder if Hans Greiner ever dreamed his baubles would expand so quickly and so widely? My guess is probably not, but I am thankful it did. Christmas ornaments have become synonymous with Christmas and once the first ornament is hung a chain of events is set into motion for the rest of the season. We know that good things are going to come in the coming weeks; Fresh baked cookies, peppermint lattes, cherished moments with loved ones, bad Hallmark Christmas movies and other traditions that come just once a year.