Why do we put ball ornaments on Christmas Trees?
The significance of evergreen foliage in the form of fir trees, wreaths, and garlands as a symbol of long or eternal life dates back thousands of years to ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Hebrew culture, long before anyone had ever decided to hang ornaments on trees. It was also widespread among pagan societies in northern and central Europe where evergreen foliage was used as decoration inside and outside the home to mark specific pagan holidays. The Christmas tree as we know it today, however, did not develop until medieval times in Germany where “paradise trees” became popular. They were initially decorated with apples to signify the Garden of Eden, but later wafers symbolizing the eucharistic host were used instead of apples. These were put up in people's homes on Christmas Eve. Eventually, the wafers were replaced by cookies, and candles were added to the trees, combining the pagan tradition of celebrating the winter solstice with the Christian symbolism of candles representing Christ, the light of the world.
By the 18th and 19th centuries, decorated Christmas trees were all the rage in central Europe. Christmas tree decorations had become much more elaborate and included tiny toys, fancy little cakes and candies, paper ribbons, and other do it yourself Christmas ornaments. German glass maker Hans Greiner first created unique Christmas ornaments in the shape of fruits, a nod to the biblical roots of the Christmas tree. In a nod to the tradition of hanging symbolic apples from Christmas trees, glass blowers in central Europe widened the repertoire of ornaments to include assorted Christmas ball ornaments made of delicate mouth blown glass, the artisanal predecessors of today's commercial ball ornaments.