Past Treasure of the Month – December 2015
on display for December and can be purchased on the 1st floor of the Library for $20 + tax.
With the holiday season in full swing on this sub-tropical paradise, the Rosenberg Library is getting in the holiday spirit. While there probably won’t be a white Christmas like 2004, trees are being decorated, stockings hung and halls decked. To celebrate the season the Museum displayed an assortment of Christmas ornaments and lapel pins as the December Treasure of the Month.
A Brief History of Christmas Ornaments
The history of holiday ornaments is rich and full of mystery. In the 8th century Saint Boniface is credited with bringing a fir tree, with its triangle shape to represent the holy trinity, to Germany for Christmas celebrations. At first decorations were simple white candles and trees were kept outside. In 1605 a tree in Strasbourg was brought indoors and decorated with paper roses, candles, nuts, and sweets. Just five years later tinsel, which at the time was made of pure silver, was introduced. Christmas trees quickly spread throughout Europe with each country adding its own twist. By the nineteenth century, Americans began to embrace the tradition. During this period food items like cookies, nuts, fruits and stranded cranberries or popcorn were very popular. Such items brought merriment and, in the case of fruits and nuts, represented a regeneration of life that awaited the next season.
While glass beads and hand-sewn ornaments had been common in England for many decades, it was not until the 1880s that German artisans began producing glass ornaments on a large scale. Lauscha, a town in Germany, quickly became the world’s leader in glass mold and hand-blown glass ornaments, while Dresden artists used paper, pressed tin and other materials to create festive decorations. Shiny and reflective materials added to the majesty of the season. During a visit to Germany, American businessman F.W. Woolworth took note of the popularity of glass ornaments and began importing them to America, reportedly selling over $25 million worth by 1900. With the onset of World War I the German monopoly over ornaments was challenged by Japanese, Czech, and eventually American manufacturers. Following World War II the trend towards mass production in areas with cheap labor costs continued and today most ornaments are made in China, although some places like Lauscha still have a thriving handcrafted, high-quality ornament industry. Today Christmas decorations rank second to gifts in seasonal sales.
A Local Tradition
One highlight of the holiday season in Galveston is the Galveston Historical Foundation’s Dickens on the Strand event. Held from December 4 – 6 this year, the unique street festival draws inspiration from 19th century Victorian London. The first Dickens (then called an Old-English Christmas and Hanukkah Party) held December 19, 1974, was a small pot-luck gathering on the Strand, but quickly grew. The Foundation’s Will Wright sums up the event’s appeal, “The architecture of the Strand… lends itself to a truly unique backdrop of Charles Dickens’ England. Walking through the streets with people in costume and the sights and sounds of the holidays all around really does create an amazing feeling.” This year the first 3,000 youth to the festival will receive a free copy of a Christmas Carol along with an expanded youth area.
The Library will display two brass lapel pins from the 1989 Dickens on the Strand celebration. Donated by former mayor Jan Coggeshall, one of the pins features an embossed Christmas tree encircled by Santa and children holding hands. The other has a simple design of two bells. Both read “Dickens on the Strand Dec. 2 – 3, 1989 Galveston Island.”
A New Tradition
The annual Friends of the Rosenberg Library used book sale is an institution in Galveston, and those who went this year got a sneak preview of a new holiday ornament created for the Friends. 2015 marks the 75th anniversary of the Friends of the Rosenberg Library and to celebrate they are selling the commemorative keepsake. This lovely brass ornament features an ornate border and a striking historic glass print of the Library. They can be purchased at the reference desk on the first floor of the Library for $20 plus tax. Proceeds from the sale go to the Library for new acquisitions.