The golden walnut, above, is one of the oldest decorations we've got. Most of the others are modern.
But as the years went by -- and we tried to buy one or two new baubles for the collection each year -- not only did the choice of edible baubles get a bit slim, but we began to be beguiled by ever more amusing objects of different kinds and these became irresistible.
Christmas decorations are one of those things that families accumulate and that cause gushes of nostalgia each year as they come out of their boxes again. Especially if they've survived their year in storage. Sadly, each year we usually find at least one decoration has broken. It's lovely if families pass their collections down the generations. I've inherited my mum's decorations which she, in turn, had got from her granny, so some of them date back to the 1930s.
When I was growing up, I'm afraid Christmas wasn't a time of wonder and magic, but just a bit of a chore for the grown-ups, or so it seemed. We had a sad little tinsel tree that got more and more naked every time it was dragged out and the decorations hung rather wanly on its bare wire branches. My mum handed over her decorations to me with something close to relief a few years ago and chucked the horrible silver tree away.
The best thing about Christmas now is re-reading the accounts she wrote of dreadful Christmases past -- the year she forgot to soak the 'mushy peas' that my dad insisted on having with the turkey, the year my dad insisted on our having a duck instead of a turkey and she didn't know how to cook it (blood ran out of it when the knife went in). You'll sense a certain theme here... We fall about laughing when we read them now but it wasn't so great at the time. Anyway, here are a few of the old baubles:
|Old Christmas cards featuring Krampus the devil|
Well, as I say, I got very excited when I looked into baubles online. A bauble wasn't a decoration at all, originally, but 'a stick with a weight attached, used in weighing a child's toy, but especially the mock symbol of office carried by a court jester. This fool's bauble was a baton terminating in a figure of Folly with cap and bells, and sometimes having a bladder fastened to the other end. Subsequently it became a term for anything trivial or childish. More recently the term means a virtually worthless decorative object.' (Wikipedia).
Woah! Even putting aside the question of why it was necessary to weigh children's toys, why did the jester's stick have a bladder fastened to it? Ah -- to 'belabour' people with, ie, to beat them about with. The figure of Folly at the other end of the stick wore a crown and asses' ears. How did this word come to mean a glass trinket? Who knows? The etymology of the word may come from Old French meaning something like 'beau-bel', that is 'pretty pretty', or from 'bebe' -- or even, in some online dictionaries, from Babel, the mythical tower/city of non-communication.
|This mermaid sits at the top of our tree instead of a fairy|
Then I discovered that glass baubles first started to be made in the little German town of Lauscha, in the Thuringian forest between Erfurt and Nuremburg. This town had been a glass-blowing centre since 1597 but the market for inkwells, bottles and oil lamps, their traditional wares, was diminishing, so enterprising artisans started making glass fruit and nuts. The trend took off and soon the baubles were being exported to England (which bought into Christmas in a big way after Prince Albert decorated a tree for Queen Victoria) and the United States (helping to make F W Woolworth's fortune).
|A Lauscha family business|
Now in Lauscha they have a museum of glass art and many glass design studios. In early December they have a big Christmas market where you can buy the latest bauble designs. My head is swooning with the things I've seen on their websites just now. These dogs are my favourites:
My head is spinning with bauble wonderment, so I will leave you with a big warm bauble of Christmas love.
|Happy Christmas! xxx|