Christmas ornaments, baubles or “christmas balls” are decorations (usually made of glass, metal, wood, or ceramics) that are used to festoon a Christmas tree. Ornaments take many different forms, from a simple round ball to highly artistic designs. Ornaments are almost always reused year after year rather than purchased annually, and family collections often contain a combination of commercially produced ornaments and decorations created by family members. Such collections are often passed on and augmented from generation to generation.
Santa Claus is a commonly used figure. Candy canes, fruit, animals, snowmen, angels and snowflake images are also popular choices.
Lucretia P. Hale’s story “The Peterkins’ Christmas-Tree” offers a short catalog of the sorts of ornaments used in the 1870s:
There was every kind of gilt hanging-thing, from gilt pea-pods to butterflies on springs. There were shining flags and lanterns, and bird-cages, and nests with birds sitting on them, baskets of fruit, gilt apples, and bunches of grapes.
The modern-day mold-blown colored glass Christmas ornament was invented in the small German town of Lauscha in the mid-19th century.