For the first twelve Christmases of my life, we had an angel looking down over us from on top of the Christmas tree like most people. Until one year my father brought home a Christmas tree that was a bit too tall for the annual angel topping. He had already wrestled with the tree for a couple of hours just to convince it that standing straight was a non-negotiable possibility, despite the struggle the tree gave.
In his haste to have the tree completely (and completely uninterested in un-decorating it to chop it down to a more convenient size) he snatched up a small knitted winter cap and plopped it on top of the tree. For several years following his momentary frustration, we topped our tree with this tiny knit cap, until the year my mother put her foot down in her desire for a more traditional looking tree.
Does it really matter what goes on the top of a tree? Christmas tree decorations are a universal tradition that has a long disputable record of its true origins. Most people credit current Christmas tree decorations with the first in home decoration recognized by the modern world, the Christmas tree of the Windsor Castle. Although others dispute this and say that Christmas tree decorations began in Germany when devout Christians brought trees into their homes for decorative purposes.
Christmas trees were originally decorated with fruits, sweets, candles, and even popcorn long before anyone decided that tree decorating just wasn’t complete until something crowned the very top branch. Stars were actually quite common once the notion took Europe by storm. They were simple to fashion and represented the Christmas star without much effort. Later, angels were introduced to represent the Angel that visited the shepherds when Christ was born.
In the pursuit of originality and uniqueness, the tree topper became the focal point of Christmas tree distinction. Special bulbs were designed, color arrangements began to provide an artist’s quality, and eventually, odd shapes and characters began to pop up as the newest and latest Christmas tree toppers.
The perpetual pursuit for unique and original tree toppers is far from over. These days, artists are being commissioned to create intricate and glorious tree toppers that represent everything from the religious to the extreme. The tree topper lays claim to the entire Christmas tree, giving it personality and ownership. This may seem a little extreme considering that the average Christmas tree is displayed between two and three weeks out of the entire year.
Out of all the ornamentation, a unique Christmas tree topper is the one that people look to for absolute distinction. No matter how original or ordinary the decorations on display light up the tree, the eyes tend to focus first on the top of the tree, even when the entire tree is magnificent.
Tree toppers have become symbolic of our reverence for the holiday. Those who deem themselves religious tend to find the tree topper that expresses their faith accurately while those who celebrate a more secular Christmas may search for something a little more ornate but less obviously Christian.
Whether it is faith statements or statements of individuality tree toppers have become the symbolic representation of our Christmas traditions. Most families will select a tree topper and utilize the same one for many years, often passing the tree topper on as a family heirloom if it is deemed appropriate. While definitely the minority, some families replace their tree toppers annually, developing quite the collections over time.
And so the question remains, does it really matter what you place on the very top of your tree? Only to you. People are bound to notice if you have something particularly crafty or original. A Christmas tree topper is your unique expression of what the holiday means to you.