Ever wondered why do we hang tinsel at Christmas? When it comes to holiday decor, there is nothing more quintessentially Christmas than garlands of gleaming tinsel shining proudly in a riot of festive hues. Wrapped around a twinkling evergreen, or set atop holiday-inspired tablescapes, there’s just something about those strings of sparkle that instantly infuse a space with Christmas cheer. But have you ever stopped to think about where tinsel came from? Read on for the surprisingly interesting answer.
The History of Tinsel
Derived from the Old French word for sparkle, tinsel has a long history stretching back to the 16th century. Originally made from extruded strands of silver alloy, tinsel was in fact first used to decorate sculptures. It was only later that it became a Christmas tree decoration, employed to enhance the flickering of the candle flames.
Evolution of Materials Used for Tinsel
By the early 20th century, manufacturing allowed for the production of cheaper aluminum tinsel, making the shining accessory more accessible to the masses. In the 50s, tinsel became so popular that it was often used as a substitute for Christmas lights. Even better, aluminium didn’t tarnish the way silver did, meaning it could be reused each year without dulling the shine.
Fast forward a few years and lead foil became the material of choice for tinsel manufacturers. Though less flammable than aluminium, lead of course came with that little problem of lead poisoning. Yikes! As lead exposure became an increasing concern in the 70s, the FDA declared lead tinsel to be an “unnecessary risk to children”.
Despite stopping short of banning lead tinsel completely, in 1972 the FDA pressured manufacturers and importers to voluntarily stop producing or importing it, paving the way for the introduction of the plastic variety we know and love today.
5 Tinsel Garlands to Bring Sparkle to your Tree
Now you’re up to date with the history of tinsel, it’s time to find the perfect tinsel accessory to get your home holiday-ready.