Out on a limb all bright

By now, you probably have your tree or are planning on getting it very soon. And that means getting out the ornament boxes.

At my house, we basically have three types of ornaments: colored glass balls, assorted "memory" ornaments and several ongoing theme collections. To my surprise, each of these groups reflects part of the history of ornaments over the last 500 years.

Ornamental history

Ornaments were first attached to trees in Bavaria about 1510 as pagan and Christian images merged.

Called "Paradise Trees," these early forerunners of our modern tree were decorated with paper roses to symbolize how Mary conquered the original tree of evil in the Garden of Eden. Apples were often tied to the tree to complete the image.

When prosperity allowed, nuts and imprinted wafer cookies were added. Later, chains of raisins, pretzels, and berries also were hung, as were metal icicles and fabric angels.

Farther south, shaping glass by blowing in a pipe was being discovered in Venice. While the Italian most often blew free-form, the German artisans blew into forms, available to them from the developing porcelain industry.

Colorful balls and molded figurines from towns devoted to ornament production were purchased and collected throughout Europe for trees that delighted endless generations of children and their parents.

Where was the United States in all of this? Most Americans of that era thought Christmas ornaments were just too pagan. But when Queen Victoria decorated a tree at Windsor Castle to make her German husband feel more at home in England, all of America's doubts about arbor suitability vanished.

Germany increased production and created what were considered the world's finest ornaments until World War II caused many firms to close or relocate to the West.

The World War II also greatly accelerated the development of plastic. After peace was declared, the American companies that had developed plastic goods for war, looked for new markets and products. And so the plastic Christmas ornament was created.

Continuing the tradition

So decorate your tree, and remember that you are part of a wonderful tradition that began in the Bavarian forests with cookies and raisin chains.

Try making the cookie ornaments, and when family and friends ask about them, give them the gift of a story - the Christmas story of all things bright and wonderful.

Green Lake's Ana Kinkaid can be reached at ilovetocookbut@hotmail. com.

Bavarian Cookie Ornaments


Pillsbury's Create and Bake cookie dough

2/3 cup additional flour

Knead the additional flour into the dough to increase the dough's density. Chill dough for 1 hour. Roll out and cut with holiday cookie cutters. Using a chopstick, make a small hole for the hanging ribbon

Bake according to manufacturer's directions.

While still warm, check that ribbon hole is still clear; enlarge gently if needed. Cool completely. Decorate with Royal Icing (see below).

Royal Icing

3 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar

2 tablespoons meringue powder

3 tablespoons water

food coloring

colored sugars, etc.

Mix the powdered sugar, meringue and water together at medium speed using an electric mixer for 10 minutes, or until very thick and triple in volume. Add food coloring, if desired.

Coat entire surface of cookie with royal icing. Add garnishes. Allow to dry completely. Add colorful hanging ribbons.[[In-content Ad]]