Ah, tinsel: the way Christmas trees used to look

The tinsel tree

It’s rather hard to believe now, but tinsel-covered trees were once considered the height of Christmas elegance. And yes, people, I remember those days.

I had to smile when I came across this tinselly monstrosity in a funny email forwarded to me by some local friends. The email was entitled “Our Life in Pictures” and featured a whole lot of images of things that only people of a certain age would remember. Let’s just say that I include myself in that number, and found the images, and the memories they brought back, highly amusing. I’ll share more of them with you in a post-Christmas post, for your holiday enjoyment.

Tonight, though, let’s talk about tinsel-covered Christmas trees. Does anyone use tinsel any more, or has it permanently been declared a total fire hazard and/or assault on the senses? Ah, but back in the day, everyone – including us Sedgwicks here at the Manse in Queensborough – adorned their tree with tinsel, which (come to think of it) was probably wildly inexpensive as a decorating option.

As I recall, in the dwindling days of tinsel use, people applied it sparing, and when you did that it didn’t look all that bad. The thin silvery wisps would catch and reflect the glow from the lights on the tree, and that was kind of pretty. But in earlier days, I vaguely recall my brothers and sister and me throwing the stuff onto the tree in handful-sized clumps (which we thought was great fun), and the result was as you might expect.

Now, obviously the people who decorated the tree featured in the photo atop this post didn’t do that; you can tell they were of the one-strand-at-a-time school of tree-trimming with tinsel. But gracious, they certainly have applied a lot, one stand at a time. And I have to say that that tree looks downright scary.

Anyway, those are my reflections on tinsel, for this Christmas at least. But before closing, I’d like to remind you of another dubious tree-decorating choice from back in the day. Do you remember Angel Hair, people?

Angel Hair“FIREPROOF,” the box proclaims. Yeah, right. Didn’t that stuff get banned when it caused one too many disastrous holiday-season blazes? At any rate, I remember that for many Christmases of my childhood, Angel Hair adorned every tree in sight – and then suddenly it was gone. Utterly gone.

But fire hazard though it may have been, it was kind of pretty, don’t you think? People would wrap some of it around each of the lights on the tree – trees tended to have far fewer lights than they do now – and it would turn the coloured light all soft and fuzzy. It gave you kind of a warm Christmas feeling to see it.

Which was all good, until that warm feeling was transformed into a raging Yuletide house fire…

18 thoughts on “Ah, tinsel: the way Christmas trees used to look

  1. I was just telling Yannick and Jonah about how we used to go crazy with the spray snow, which now sounds like the height of pre-climate-change awareness idiocy, but I’d forgotten about tinsel (which I loved) and angel hair (which we used to carefully clump around the lights to make them glowy. The horrible part? Mum would have been the one scrubbing the fake snow off the windows and–wait for it–picking the tinsel off the tree–once we’d gone back to school. And wasn’t angel hair spun glass or fibreglass or something? Yeesh!

    • Ah, Nancy, you, like my brother John, have invoked the fake snow! That stuff was pretty neat if you were a kid, but yeah, wildly wrong on so many levels, notably environmental. Aerosol sprays! And yes, the “spun glass” the was the “angel hair” probably was, come to think of it, fibreglass. Yikes!

  2. May the sparkling light (like tinsel) brighten your lives this Christmas season Missed you both at Hazzard’s service last night. SRO crowd!!! God Bless…GnG

  3. You know the fake snow you could really make a pretty window if you had an artistic hand. But I never liked the houses that left it on till June!!! :p Tinsel was great that was my job when decorating the tree. Do you remember or did you have those small reflective butter tart trays so I thought at the time cut out like stars to go behind the big light bulbs on your Christmas tree? My mom let me place them on the wire before she screwed in the light bulb. I think they were used not only to make your tree pretty but to save your tree from catching on fire. lol

  4. The pets would eat it. It wasn’t pretty when it came out the other end, particularly if it got a bit stuck. Really dampened the whole Christmas spirit.

  5. I still use tinsel on my tree wouldn’t be a Xmas tree without it 😄. I also have the vintage angel hair spun glass in there boxes oh how I want to use just once but I guess I will have to just enjoy it in the box n not a burning tree!!

    • Wow, Lisa – I didn’t know one could still buy tinsel! Good for you! Good to know that someone’s keeping those old Christmas traditions alive. As for the angel hair, as I wrote in my post I always thought it was quite lovely when placed over the coloured bulbs on the tree – but as you say, not at the risk of a Christmas inferno!

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