Christmas by Candlelight: Tracing the Hidden History of Christmas Decorating — The Largest Collection of Historic Christmas Tree Candle Holder Patents on the Web
Celebrating the holidays with candles on the Christmas tree is part of our Christmas DNA. It’s a tradition that is as old as the Christmas tree itself. In fact, we’ve been decorating our trees with candles much longer than we have with electric lights.
Years after the the tradition fell out of use, people today are scarcely aware how widespread it was. But for hundreds of years before incandescent lights grew popular in the 1920s and 1930s and LEDs swept the market in the 1990s, candles were the only choice. Generations of children grew up experiencing the sight of a Christmas tree bathed in natural candlelight and never forgot it.
Christmas Tree Candles — The Way We Used To Do It
In the earliest times, families attached candles to their Christmas trees with hot wax. They also decorated the tree with simple ornaments, including fruit, paper cut-outs, garlands and gingerbread figures. In time, home-made hanging pendulum candle holders became more common. They were safer and easier to use.
The pendulum holders were hung on the tree and the candle was balanced in place with a counterweight. They included either a spiral, pin or clasp to hold the candle in place and a weight at the end of the stem to keep the candle upright. Oftentimes the weight was in the shape of a walnut, orange or star.
When counterbalance pendulum Christmas tree candle holders began to be produced in small-scale factories and metal shops and became available at Christmas markets, they gradually replaced the home-made pendulum holders. In time, small clip-on Christmas tree candle holders also became popular. These always included some combination of a pin or clasp to hold the candle in place, a drip cup and usually a spring-powered clamp to grip the branch. Many models also had a ball-in-socket swivel mechanism to adjust the candle.
Decorating with Christmas tree candles was in its commercial prime for about 50 years — from roughly 1880 gradually tapering off through the 1920s and 30s. No one knows for sure, but something about the growing popularity of Christmas or the entrepreneurial possibilities associated with it excited generations of early innovators to figure out new and improved ways of mounting candles on Christmas trees every year.
The Christmas geeks of the late 1800s and early 1900s wasted no time adding new features and design twists to make the candle holders more appealing and sellable. One hack might include adding an angel, butterfly, pear or other figure as a counterweight. Another new twist might include adding a different clasp for a clip-on candle holder, a ship or other decorative figure atop the holder, a new mounting system with arms to hold several candles in place or even a built-in extinguisher (!)
Though the clips and pendulums are small and look simple at first glance, making them involved an unbelievable array of production steps. Depending on the model, this included cutting, die stamping, bending and shaping individual metal pieces, wrapping wire, fashioning a spring, adding a decoration, and assembling all the parts into a functioning package.
Patents Give us a Window on Christmas Past
This collection of Christmas tree candle holder patents is the largest and most comprehensive available on the web. It includes patents awarded by the U.S. Patent Office, starting in the mid- 1870s. The spread of patents documented here ranges from the simplest, lowly clip-on candle holder to complicated Rube Goldberg-esque contraptions with mirrors and extended arms. Looking at the patent drawings and reading the filings is a good way to trace the design developments and get a feel for how the candle holders have evolved through the years before they were overtaken by electric Christmas tree lights.
Reviving Christmas Candle Awesomeness
What Goes Around Comes Around. Each Christmas tree candle holder was an ingenious bundle of engineering. Each one was loaded with design awesomeness and combined functionality with aesthetic appeal. Yet all the ingenious design hacks, new twists and improvements offered by the Christmas geeks of yore were not enough to keep Christmas tree candle holders from literally slipping off the radar screen by the late 20th century.
Fortunately, obscurity has done nothing to extinguish the tradition. Decorating the tree with candles and candle holders survived in a sort of Christmas underground through the years. It’s now on a comeback course, fueled by people who love the look, appreciate the simplicity and like the idea of reviving a classic tradition and making it their own.
Christmas Gifts from Germany We import genuine Christmas tree candles and source authentic original Christmas tree candle clips and Christmas tree pendulum candle holders from the last small family-owned factory shop of its kind in Germany.
Special Imported Candles — High-quality stearin candles imported from Europe that are virtually drip-free
Genuine Candle Holders — Manufactured according to the highest standards by the last remaining family-owned producer of its kind in Germany — Deutsche Wertarbeit. We do not source holders, ornaments or other items in Asia.
Quick and Easy Ordering — Ordering online is simple, secure and fast. Pay securely online in seconds via our safe SSL link, using Paypal.
Fast Delivery — Shipping from the USA — Most orders go out the same day. Express and international shipping options are also available.