Guest blogger: Rhonda Gibson
Thank you so much for having me here today on the Christian Fiction Historical Society! I love Christmas, and thought I’d share something I learned during my research for the book I’m working on now. In the late 1800’s, many types of store-bought ornaments were hung on the Christmas tree. This surprised me because I always thought that people only put homemade ornaments on their trees back then.
What I learned was that ornaments became popular in America around 1840 when many families emigrated from Germany and England to the U.S. In 1880, ornaments became a big hit when F.W. Woolworth reluctantly stocked his stores with German-made ornaments. By 1890, he was selling $25 million worth of ornaments at nickel and dime prices.
My favorite ornaments to learn about were called gewgaws. Gewgaws are small, inexpensive items that added color and sparkle. One definition of gewgaws that I found described them as small, showy items that hold no other value than decoration. I decided to see if that meaning held true.
In my research, I found that gewgaws in the late 1800s included candies wrapped in shiny paper, gold-painted nuts, sparkly jewelry and little birds/animals made of colored paper or yarn. Candy canes and ribbon candy were also considered gewgaws.
To me, gewgaws were more valuable than the German-made ornaments because they held special meaning to those who hung them. The children would eat the candy on Christmas morning or sometime during the day. Often little girls or their mothers were given the sparkly jewelry as a gift from either parents or husbands. And I can imagine the children playing with the birds and other small animals made from colored paper or yarn. They created memories that lasted the family for many years.
So the next time you hang a candy cane on your tree, remember it is actually a gewgaw and it is special. Not only does it make your tree look festive, it is also fun to eat.
BOOK BLURB: Taming the Texas Rancher
Race to the Altar series
Though he'd never planned to wed, Daniel Westland must marry and produce a grandchild before his brother does in order to inherit the family ranch. Leave it to him to pick a mail-order bride who insists on being courted!
What man sends away for a bride but doesn't really want to get married? Hannah came to Granite, Texas, hoping to find love and security, and she can't settle for less than a true partnership. If the brooding, handsome rancher can just learn to trust in Hannah, their future could be as filled with promise.