12 Great Historical Holiday Decorations and Traditions

Each December, as we unpack our favorite holiday treasures, we recall their personal significance: Grandma’s Christmas china, mother’s hand-sewn tree skirt, a child’s finger-painted ornament. But most traditional items, in general, also have long, storied histories that may not be so well known or remembered.

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In honor of the 12 days of Christmas, here are a dozen modern takes on traditional and festive holiday decor ideas—some that date back to the Druids, others just finding their way into the pop-culture lexicon, but all filled with good cheer.

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READ MORE: The History of Christmas Trees


‘Candle’ Lights

From the “don’t try this at home” files: In 17th-century Germany, someone had the, er, bright idea to decorate their Christmas trees with lit candles. The tradition is thought to have arrived in America in the 1830s (President Franklin Pierce lit his White House tree that way in 1856), and while we’re sure it was pretty, the obvious fire hazard was replaced with the invention of electric tree lights in the late 1890s. Love the idea? Best to stick with these flameless faux-candle string lights that only look like the real thing. About $35, Amazon.

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