This Is Why We Hang Tinsel at Christmas |
This Is Why We Hang Tinsel at Christmas

This Is Why We Hang Tinsel at Christmas

The more you know!

Written by –
Jess Ng
on December 2nd 2017
Born and raised in the UK, Jess is NONAGON’s resident historian turned marketer turned writer, drawn to Hong Kong by the lure of dim sum breakfasts and bustling city life. A foodie who loves to cook, food occupies 70% of her brain 90% of the time. When not eating, Jess can typically be found buried in a book or obsessing over making NONAGON’s Instagram #feedgoals.

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.

Festive living room complete with tinsel and Christmas tree |
image source

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 Originally made from extruded strands of silver alloy, tinsel was in fact first used to decorate sculptures.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.


Retro vintage Christmas tree with tinsel |
image source

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”.


Christmas Resolutions

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.

Blushing Tinsel Garland from Anthropologie |
Blushing Tinsel Garland, Anthropologie
Lit Gold Beaded Garland Tinsel from Laura Ashley |
Lit Gold Beaded Garland, Laura Ashley
Multi Glitter Garland Tinsel by Crate and Barrel |
Multi Glitter Garland, Crate and Barrel
Silver Leaves Ribbon Tinsel from One Kings Lane |
Silver Leaves Ribbon, One Kings Lane
Warm Tones Tassel Garland Tinsel from Anthropologie |
Warm Tones Tassel Garland, Anthropologie

If you liked this article then you have to check out the story behind the Christmas bauble too! To see more articles like this in the future, make sure you hit the ‘heart’ button.


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