While the earliest Christmas trees were documented in Central Europe sometime in the early 16th century, the first true Christmas ornaments did not appear until three hundred years later. During that long intervening period, the Christmas tree decorations of choice consisted primarily of edible treats. Sometime in the 1840s, a glassblower in the small town of Lauscha in Germany created a string of glass beads with which to decorate his Christmas tree. Hans Greiner, the glassblower in question, probably had no idea at the time that his decorationwould lead to one of the greatest and most enduring holiday traditions in history: the Christmas ornament.
Within a decade, glass Christmas ornaments were all the rage throughout Europe. Greiner’s glassworks soon became the toast of Lauscha, and soon many new production facilities were opening up to take advantage of the craze. Demand soared in Europe after glass ornaments from Lauscha appeared on Queen Victoria’s Christmas tree. Sales skyrocketed even further when F.W. Woolworth introduced the glass treasures to American stores.
For nearly a century, the town of Lauscha dominated the glass ornament industry. After World War II, the communist authorities of East Germany stopped production of ornaments in Lauscha, preferring to focus on the manufacture of less frivolous goods. It was forty years before Christmas ornaments were once again produced in Lauscha, though it has yet to recover its former prominence.
Today there are less than two-dozen small glass ornament manufacturers in Lauscha, a mere shadow of the former industry. However, this is more than enough to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors annually who come in search of Christmas ornament treasures. The most popular time of year to come are during the first two weeks of Advent, when the Christmas Ball Market is held (market dates are usually the first two Sundays of Advent, but these are subject to change). Web: www.krebslauscha.de (website of Lauscha Glass)