The History of Christmas: Tinsel
Tinsel on the tree: A Christmas Tradition
Imagine your Christmas Tree without tinsel. You know, that sparkling stuff you put on in ropes as a kid or threw on to make it shiny. Tinsel. Let's think about this word or maybe we shouldn't. It's one of those words that in and of itself says "Christmas", but where did it come from?
Tinsel was invented in 1610 in Neuremberg, Germany. It seems a lot of our Christmas traditions come from there if you start looking it up. The word in French actually means "sparkle". It was made from extruded strands of silver. Yeah, they used real silver to make this stuff back then. Now it is made from plastic. Average, everyday people would not have been able to afford the stuff so by the early 20th century they were making it from aluminum, a much cheaper metal.
Did you know at one time tinsel had lead in it? Also, a lot of fires were caused by the old, hot, electric bulbs reflecting off the aluminum and heating it up. The idea of tinsel was that it was reflective and looked like ice. It makes sense that the Germans would put it on a Christmas tree during winter time to make it look more outdoorsy doesn't it?
Before the 16th century, tinsel was used to adorn statues rather than Christmas trees. They had very little lighting, using candles and lanterns so any kind of reflective surface certainly helped. Looking around today, you see it on lamp posts, around windows, etc. It comes in many different colors from red, green and silver to purple and blue. However, tinsel today is not biodegradable so if you do use tinsel keep this in mind. Some alternatives are popcorn strings and pretty ribbons.