Weihnachtslametta: German Tinsel for the Christmas Tree…


Christmas 1986

Growing up we always had Lametta or tinsel on our Christmas tree. It was a way to add some sparkle to the tree and to this day I still love seeing how the light flickers against the silver tinsel, especially when the tree is lit with actual candles. In a way the twinkle effect was the same as today’s string lights. Invented in Nuremberg in 1610, it is hard to believe that tinsel was originally made of shredded silver. It was pounded flat and cut into thin stripes. But rather than being hung on Christmas trees, it adorned sculptures and lampposts and such to mimic the starry sky.

 Today’s Lametta is made of plastic and more popular in form of garlands than little strips of silver. And a lot cheaper, too. Back in the 17th century only the wealthy could afford to  hang the silver on their tree and usually by the time Heiligabend or Christmas Eve came around, the silver had often tarnished. By the early 20th century, manufacturers started making tinsel out of aluminum and copper. It produced the same festive sparkle effect but for a fraction of the price and the best, the Lametta could be reused year after year.

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Christmas 1986

I still remember when I was little and Christmas was over, all of us had to collect EVERY SINGLE strand off the tree before carefully placing it back into its package. Most Christmases we had more tinsel on the tree than actual ornaments. And just like hanging ornaments, there is a mad science to hanging Lametta. With a careful hand, using a only a few strands on each tree branch and make sure the ends hang down. As children, we spend hours decorating the tree like that while my mom watched and pointed to branches that still needed a few strands. Memories that last a lifetime.

You can still buy metal Lametta or tinsel today but it is much more expensive than the plastic kind. Even vintage Lametta is still available on ebay!



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