CLOSE

10 Awesome Christmas Ornaments for U.S. History Buffs

What a wonderful variety of ornaments we can get to decorate our Christmas trees! Here is an array of ornaments perfect for any U.S. history buff, whether that someone is yourself or a loved one.

1. ALEXANDER HAMILTON

Lest we start to think that Alexander Hamilton looked like Lin-Manuel Miranda (creator of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton), let us remember his portrait is on the $10 bill. It's this portrait that also graces the Alexander Hamilton Christmas ornament from Mat and Amie of Nestled Pines Woodworking. The quote on the piece—"A promise must never be broken"—is from a 1791 letter to his eldest son, Philip.

2. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

Benjamin Franklin has been paraphrased and misquoted for over 200 years. What he said was, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Holly White painted that quote, along with Franklin's face, on a plush Christmas ornament offered through her shop HollyAndHerHobbies.

3. ABRAHAM LINCOLN QUOTES

This glass ball has a treasure inside. The curled bits of paper are actually hand-cut from a book titled Lincoln: Speeches and Writings 1859-1865. Quotes from Abraham Lincoln are carefully excised, curled, and placed inside until the ball is filled. The result is a historically meaningful ornament from Etsy store noveladornment.

4. THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS

This wooden ornament is only 4 inches tall, yet it contains the complete text of the Gettysburg Address, as delivered by President Lincoln at the dedication of the military cemetery. It's offered by Dennis and Nancy Solomon of PalmettoEngraving.

5. SITTING BULL

SarahWoodJewelry has a series of ornaments featuring photographs of Native American historical figures on tin with leather and copper trim. This one features Hunkpapa Lakota chief and holy man Sitting Bull, who united the Sioux tribes to oppose U.S. government policies toward Native Americans, which included defeating General Custer at Little Big Horn. Other ornaments from the shop depict Chief Joseph and Geronimo.

6. THEODORE ROOSEVELT

Our 26th president led the Rough Riders, championed national parks, and inspired the teddy bear. Now Teddy Roosevelt is a wooden Christmas ornament, handcrafted by Rachael Peden. Her Etsy shop has a wealth of historical figures in wood ready to deck your Christmas tree, from George Washington and Abraham Lincoln to Edgar Allan Poe and Davy Crockett.

7. ROSIE THE RIVETER

When American men were sent off to fight in World War II, women stepped into their jobs for the war effort. Over time, those hard-working women came to be represented by a character called Rosie the Riveter. You can pay tribute to the working women of World War II with this pewter Christmas ornament in the style of the iconic poster. You'll find it at the Etsy shop ARRARosieShoppe, along with other souvenirs depicting Rosie.

8. VJ DAY IN TIMES SQUARE

New Yorkers celebrated the end of World War II with dancing in the streets. Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt was in Times Square on VJ Day and captured an unforgettable photo of a sailor kissing a nurse that became the image everyone associates with the war's end. Nina at AdornamentsNY makes a version of that kiss as a Christmas tree ornament that can be personalized with names.

9. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

Kimmy at scrambledpegs offers wooden figurines of famous people from history, and she'll be glad to add a hook and ribbon so that you can hang them on your Christmas tree. Pictured here is Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Other historical figures from the Etsy shop include peg dolls depicting Mary Shelley, Marie Curie, Sally Ride, Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela, Anne Frank, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

10. APOLLO MISSION

The Kennedy Space Center gift shop sells Christmas ornaments commemorating notable NASA missions. This one shows Santa Claus and Rudolph in an Apollo lunar capsule, modeled after the ones used during actual missions. Other ornaments in the shop commemorate the space shuttle program, and there are even a couple sporting the classic NASA logo.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images
arrow
holidays
The Chinese City That Makes More Than Half of the World's Christmas Accessories
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Santa’s workshop isn’t actually in the North Pole—it’s in Yiwu, China, where 60 percent of the world’s Christmas items are produced. As The Guardian reports, the city just outside of Shanghai is home to 600 factories, which assemble mass quantities of festive baubles, fuzzy Santa hats, and every other imaginable Yuletide decoration or accessory.

The items are sold in the local Yiwu International Trade Market, which is the “world’s largest small commodity wholesale market,” and the market exports the holiday goods across the world. Eventually, some of them land on the shelves of local retailers near you.

Over the past few years, Yiwu International Trade Market has faced competition from online retailers like Alibaba and Made In China, and the e-commerce giants now have the upper hand. Still, the demand for Yiwu’s Christmas merchandise remains high domestically. According to The Guardian, Chinese residents are starting to celebrate the holiday.

[h/t The Guardian]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
arrow
video
16 Innovative Origins of Holiday Traditions

Don't miss an episode—subscribe today! Images and footage provided by Shutterstock. Here's a transcript courtesy of Nerdfighteria Wiki.

1. Hi, I'm John Green, welcome to my salon, this is Mental Floss on YouTube, and did you know that artificial snow dates back to 1950? That's when three engineers from Milford, Connecticut attached a garden hose to a compressor and used a spray nozzle to cover a hill in 20 inches of snow. Before that, ski slope owners used ice. In 1949, for instance, the owner of Mohawk Mountain in Connecticut spent $3500 on 500 tons of ice, which he broke up with a pick, then spread the chips over a slope.

And that's just one of many origins of holiday traditions that I'm gonna share with you in this video today brought to you by Intel.

2. The Christmas tree in Manhattan's Rockefeller Center is 65 feet tall, 555 pounds, contains 30,000 LED lights, and costs the city of New York over $1.5 million. To find the perfect tree every year, the city sends out helicopter crews on surveying flights all over New England.

3. In 1851, Mark Carr because the first logger ever to set up a Christmas tree stand on a New York City sidewalk. He paid $1 to rent the space for that season. He was so successful that the next year, his rent was up to $100.

4. Christmas trees in 18th century Germany were often lit with candles fixed to the branches with wax, making them fire hazards. In 1882, Edward Johnson, vice president of the Edison Electric Light Company made the first electric Christmas lights for his family tree. The 80 walnut-sized electrical individual bulbs were red, white, and blue. Oh, so they looked kinda like our Nutcracker, red, white, and blue ... and Picard.

5. Holiday lights went commercial in 1901, but you had to plug each light in—meaning you probably couldn't have more than a couple on your tree. Ever-Ready solved that problem two years later, selling strings of lights with up to eight little bulbs in a row.

6. While mistletoe has been linked to fertility in lots of ancient cultures, the practice of kissing under it really took off in Victorian England, where some jerks circulated the myth that girls who refused to kiss under the mistletoe wouldn't receive any marriage proposals in the following year.

7. Speaking of mistletoe, it isn't native to the United States, but unwilling to let the tradition die, American entrepreneurs sourced the plants from France and began shipping the clippings over by steamship in the 19th century.

8. The most popular place to eat on December 25 in Japan is KFC. It's so common that you have to make reservations months in advance, despite the fact that only 1 percent of the population even celebrates Christmas. The tradition goes back to 1974, when the fast-food chain launched a commercial offering foreign visitors their next best thing to a traditional turkey, but instead, it unexpectedly caught on with locals.

9. Festivus from Seinfeld actually existed long before the TV show. The holiday, which features traditions like using a stark aluminum pole instead of a Christmas tree, and the Feats of Strength, where someone had to wrestle the head of the household, is credited to staff writer Dan O'Keefe. But O'Keefe's father actually invented it when he began researching obscure European holidays and bundled them together as an excuse to gripe about his magazine job he worked for, Reader's Digest. According to Dan, the family was forced to attend the celebration for years and it was much stranger than anything he could write about for the sitcom.

10. The first Christmas cards were designed by the Englishman John Callcott Horsley in 1843. He printed up a thousand cards with three little drawings side by side, none of which were, like, Santa or reindeer—instead, his cards featured a family sitting together at a table in the middle with two images of them helping the poor on either side.

That's lovely, but I don't understand what it has to do with holidays. Where was the Xbox?

11. Dr. Seuss's How The Grinch Stole Christmas is loosely based on Seuss himself. The day after Christmas in 1956, Seuss (a.k.a. Theodore Geisel) realized he never enjoyed the holidays. So he wrote the book in an attempt to remind himself about the true spirit of the season. According to his stepdaughter, there's a little Seuss in all of his characters. As she put it: "I always thought that the cat was Ted on his good days, and the Grinch was Ted on his bad days."

12. Christmas pickles are not supposed to be a thing. The idea comes from a German tradition where families hide a dill in their Tannenbaum's branches—the lucky child who finds it the next morning gets an extra gift from Saint Nick. But the story is actually completely untrue! Before F.W. Woolworth, Americans used to trim trees with candy and fruit and paper, but on a trip to a little town in Germany, Woolworth noticed an opportunity— people had started to make and use glass ornaments. Once he started importing the glass trinkets, Woolworth's team concocted the idea of Christmas pickles, along with the fake tradition story to boost sales of their new line at department stores.

Huh, can I start a Christmas tradition of playing Nintendo games all day?

13. Advent calendars first took off in America when a picture of President Eisenhower opening one up with his grandkids showed up in newspapers across the nation. But unlike the Christmas pickle, this tradition actually is German! The calendars were first produced by the German printer Gerhard Lang was inspired to recreate the handcrafted calendars his mother had made for him in the early 1900s. Before Lang, most Germans used to mark the advent by lighting candles or hanging pictures on advent clocks.

14. Now obviously, American customers want the postal service to make holiday stamps, right, because that's the only time we ever send mail anymore. But the service always struggled to figure out how to make a stamp that pleased everyone without offending anyone. In 1962, Jim Crawford came up with a simple design that worked, featuring two candles and a wreath. It was very popular. The postal office sold out its first run of 50 million stamps in no time. By the end of 1962, it had distributed over 1 billion of the stamps.

15. In 2007, the sport Major League Dreidel was formed in New York City. The tournaments occurred during Hanukkah, and the winner is the Dreideler with the longest time of spin.

16. And finally, I return to my salon to tell you that in 1951, artificial trees started outselling natural trees in the United States. But artificial trees aren't new. In fact, the first ones came from Germany in 1913 as a way to lessen deforestation. They were originally made out of goose feathers dyed green and fixed to a wooden pole. But goose feathers are messy and shed all over people's houses, so the toilet brush company Addis Brush Company stepped in, and using the exact same technology as brings toilet brushes into the world, made artificial Christmas trees.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios