One of the wonderful things about Christmas time is decorating our homes and our Christmas trees with twinkly lights, bright colours and festive cheer! However, the idea of hanging up decorations in the middle of Winter is a much older tradition than Christmas. There are accounts of decorations being used as early as Roman times during the feast of Saturnalia which dates back to the 5th century BC! But decorations have increasingly become central to the celebration of Christmas and from about the 1500’s onwards, people began to decorate their homes using greenery such as Holly and Ivy, whilst in the homes of the very wealthy, the best tapestries and jewels would also be put on display! Inside the collection at The National Archives there are hundreds of documents that can tell us about the different decorations favoured at Christmas, from Tudor times through to the twentieth century. These documents include adverts for Christmas decorations, photographs and even descriptions of what people chose to decorate their homes with to celebrate the festive season. Below are a selection of a few of our favourite documents relating Christmas decorations in the past.

See what you can find out about Christmas decorations from looking at these documents and answering the questions. Then, if you’d like to get crafty and creative, take a look at some of our ideas for your own Christmas decorations or even have a go at making ginger-bread stars to hang on your Christmas tree!

Hearn’s Christmas Lamps, 1895

Lighting up of the first Norwegian Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square, December 1947

Edwardian Christmas rhyme design

Tom Smith’s Christmas Tree crackers, 1907