December 18, 2014 2:42 pm

The holidays are a time of tradition. Even in the age of technology, the simplicity of the sparkling lights of a Christmas tree, scent of freshly baked cookies in the air, and squealing of young children opening their gifts could be a scene straight out of a classic holiday movie. All holiday traditions have invention stories behind them, some going back hundreds of years.

Sparkle and Shine

A Christmas tree looks splendid with lights and ornaments, but it just isn’t complete without tinsel. Tinsel was invented in Germany in 1610, but it was made of genuine silver, shredded into thin slivers. Silver eventually tarnishes and only the very wealthy could afford to have genuine silver decorating their trees, so eventually artificial versions were invented. Modern garland is made of plastic and comes in many colors, but the most popular is still silver.

How Lovely Are Your Branches

This holiday season, just 19% of Americans will have a real Christmas tree. The number one reason for having a fake Christmas tree over a real one was convenience. Some people said it took too long to find, cut down, and put up a real Christmas tree, others lived too far away from a tree farm, and some thought it was too expensive. Prior to the late 19th century, “convenient” Christmas trees were not an option. The artificial Christmas tree was invented in Germany in the late 1800s and were made of wire and covered with turkey, ostrich, goose, or swan feathers dyed green. The type of artificial trees we use today were not invented until the 1930s by a toilet brush company.

Season’s Greetings

The holiday card industry is a big money maker in the United States. More than 6.5 billion greeting cards are sold each year, totaling more than $7 billion. Innovation has made it possible for us to send personalized photo cards, 3D cards, and even singing cards. The first Christmas cards were created in 1843 when British businessman Sir Henry Cole asked artist John Calcott Horsley to print some cards. They were printed in black and white and had a picture of a group of people during a dinner toast, which was colored by hand. The first mass-produced Christmas cards were made by a London printer in 1862 and have been a Christmas tradition ever since.

Wrap it Up

When you’re buried under wrapping paper, bows, ribbons, cards, and boxes, who can you thank for the tradition of attractively wrapped presents? Joyce C. Hall, creator of Hallmark, is known to have started the present-wrapping craze. Prior to 1917, presents were typically wrapped in delicate tissue paper. That Christmas, however, Hallmark sold out of wrapping paper and started selling customers envelope lining paper, decorated with fun holiday prints. The public loved it, and the new type of wrapping paper became the norm for gift givers everywhere.

As you finish your shopping and straighten the star at the top of the tree, remember these holiday traditions were started many years ago and have stood the test of time. What are your favorite holiday traditions? Have you or your family made up your own traditions? Let us know!

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