You always wanted to know how the Christmas tree and its beautiful glass ornaments made it into your living room, and how Germany got to its Christmas Pickle? Then read on:The custom to decorate a Christmas tree for the holidays is an over 500 year old tradition. The first Christmas tree was decorated in Germany in the end of the 16th century. Soon, this tradition conquered the entire world.
Beside apples, nuts, baked goods, straw and wood, glass ornaments are extremely popular. In fact, the first Christmas tree ball was produced in Germany, and since then, this has become a major branch of the German glass industry. Most of them are located in the southern part of Germany, in Thuringia and Bavaria.
Here are just a few of the many German manufacturers of Christmas tree glass ornaments:
Marolin – paper-mâché and handmade Christmas glass ornaments
The family-run manufacturing facility is located in the small town Steinach in Thuringia. In 1900, it was started by Richard Mahr and his wife in his parents’ living room. The high-quality nativity sets, figurines, Easter and Christmas decorations are hand-crafted and hand-painted. The origins of the name Marolin date back to Richard Mahr’s proprietary recipe for making this unique paper-mâché dough.
Today these paper-mâché crafts do not only make for unique gifts but also are also sought-after collectibles. Besides the manufacturing facility, the museum showcases the original work space. So, if you plan on visiting Germany, this is a great place to visit. Marolin currently retails more than 1,300 different models. In addition, the company offers the restauration of historic Marolin figurines.
Lauscha Glas – artistic glass ornaments for Christmas and beyond
Lauscha Glas is named after a small town in Thuringia, founded by two glass blower families – Hans Greiner und Christoph Müller in 1597. The artistic glass industry there started basically out in living rooms.Besides the fact that Germany’s glass eyes are manufactured in Lauscha, the town is most known for its Christmas tree balls made of glass. In 1762, the ‘lamp glass blowing’ was introduced. Its technique enabled the production of glass pebbles, which led to the creation of glass marbles and Christmas tree balls. Around 1880, the Lauscha Christmas balls and other beautiful glass products attracted the attention of the American, F. W. Woolworth, and at a value of $25,000, he started selling them in Pennsylvania. 10 years later, this made Lauscha Glas an export hit. Woolworth’s retail chains already sold a stunning 200,000 of the sparkling balls, angels, Santa Clauses, stars etc. during the Christmas season in the year 1900.
Formerly being the Christmas tree decoration of the poorest in Germany, the ones who couldn’t afford to decorate with apples and nuts, the Lauscha glass decoration soon became the choice of Christmas decoration in the most upscale households.
Traditions of the glass manufacturing have been handed down from generation to generation. In 1923, the first commercial art vocational school was opened in Lauscha, to train lamp glass blowers.
Today the term Lauscha Glas refers to the various glass manufacturers located in Lauscha. One well-known manufacturer is Krebs Glas Lauscha and the ELIAS Farbglashütte Lauscha, which is one of the oldest existing glas factories in Germany dating back to 1853.
Inge Glas – Christmas ornaments
Its full name is Inge’s Christmas Decor GmbH is located in the scenic town of Neustadt in Bavaria. If it hadn’t been for Germany’s division, the company would probably never have been founded.
During the socialist era, Neustadt was the refuge for glass blowers fleeing from Lauscha (East Germany). In fact, in 1954 after the partition of Germany, Heinz Müller-Blech (13th generation) continued the Thuringian family tradition of glass blowing in Neustadt bei Coburg.
Today, Inge Glas manufactures approx. 50 million handcrafted and industrially manufactured Christmas tree balls and glass ornaments. A lot of them are exported all across the globe.BTW: The Christmas pickle does not have its origin in Germany but in the USA. There exist several stories about its origin. Berrien Springs, Michigan even holds a yearly pickle festival in early December and therefore is called the Christmas pickle capital of the world.
One story states that the Bavarian-born Private John C. Lower had enlisted in the 103rd Pennsylvania Infantry. However, he was captured in April 1864 and taken to the prison camp. On Christmas Eve, he begged a guard for a pickle while starving. The guard provided the pickle, and Lower later credited him for saving his life. After returning to his family, he began a tradition of hiding a pickle on their Christmas tree each year.
However, Inge Glas has been selling Christmas pickles for over 30 years now, 1/3 of them to the US market alone. The tradition is finally making its way back to Germany, where a growing number of people consider the Christmas pickle a ‘must-have’ ornament.