The idea of decorating a Christmas tree did not become official until the early 19th century. When people first started putting up a Christmas tree they didn't trim them with the type of Christmas ornaments we use today. For many years they garnished them with different kinds of candies, sugar coated fruits, nuts, homemade cookies, ribbons and small gifts.
In eastern Germany the town of Lauscha is known as the birthplace of the Christmas tree ornament. In 1590, a glassblowing center was established there. German Protestant glassblowers from Swabia started it there when they settled to escape religious persecution. Soon, the glassblowers created a profitable business by making glass toys including dolls eyes and drinking glasses.
By the 18th century, the Lauschan glassblowers started making tubes of connected glass beads, which they sold to merchants all across Europe. Later glassblowers from other countries started making beads and other items. The Germans made silverglass balls called kugels.
In the mid-1870s, merchants in the town of Sonnebery discovered the Lauschan kugels and received the rights to export them. Because of F.W. Woolworth, the Lauschan glass ornaments caught on quick. In 1880 he decided to give kugels a try in his store and bought some from his American importer for his five-and-dime stores. He sold out of the gorgeous ornaments immediately and women asked for more.
It is unknown exactly when or why December 25 became associated with Jesus' birth. The New Testament does not give a specific date. Sextus Julius Africanus popularized the idea that Jesus was born on December 25 in his Chronographiai, a reference book for Christians written in AD 221. This date is nine months after the traditional date of the Incarnation (March 25), now celebrated as the Feast of the Annunciation. March 25 was considered to be the date of the vernal equinox and therefore the creation of Adam; early Christians believed this was also the date Jesus was crucified. The Christian idea that Jesus was conceived on the same date that he died on the cross is consistent with a Jewish belief that a prophet lived an integral number of years.
The identification of the birth date of Jesus did not at first inspire feasting or celebration. Tertullian does not mention it as a major feast day in the Church of Roman Africa. In 245, the theologian Origen denounced the idea of celebrating Jesus' birthday "as if he were a king pharaoh." He contended that only sinners, not saints, celebrated their birthdays.
The earliest reference to the celebration of Christmas is in the Calendar of Filocalus, an illuminated manuscript compiled in Rome in 354. In the east, meanwhile, Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus as part of Epiphany (January 6), although this festival focused on the baptism of Jesus.
Throughout the 20th century, the United States experienced what became known as the Christmas controversies over the nature of the day, and its dual status as a religious feast day and a secular holiday of the same name. The importance of the economic impact of the secular Christmas holiday was reinforced in the 1930s when President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed moving the Thanksgiving holiday date to extend the Christmas shopping season and boost the economy during the Great Depression. Religious leaders protested this move, with a New York Times roundup of Christmas sermons showing the most common theme as the dangers of an increasingly commercial Christmas.
Some considered the U.S. government's recognition of Christmas as a federal holiday to be a violation of the separation of church and state. This was brought to trial several times, recently including in Lynch v. Donnelly (1984) and Ganulin v. United States (1999).
On December 6, 1999, the verdict for Ganulin v. United States (1999) declared that "the establishment of Christmas Day as a legal public holiday does not violate the Establishment Clause because it has a valid secular purpose." This decision was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court on December 19, 2000. At the same time, many devout Christians objected to what they saw as the vulgarization and cooption of one of their sacred observances by secular commercial society and calls to return to "the true meaning of Christmas" are common.
Debates about Christmas in America continued into the 21st century. In 2005, some Christians, along with American political commentators such as Bill O'Reilly, protested what they perceived to be the secularization of Christmas. They felt that the holiday was threatened by a general secular trend, or by persons and organizations with an anti-Christian agenda. The perceived trend was also blamed on political correctness.
What's it worth? Take a look at this Vintage Christmas Ornaments price guide: sold listings for a value indication.