Well-loved things often have colourful and often not so straightforward origin stories. Songs that cross borders and are handed over from generation to generation. Food dishes that are so delicious that countries claim them as their own. In this article, we will consider the case of the braided Christmas heart, a very beloved symbol of the winter holiday season, especially in Denmark, and one of the classics here at Art Glass Copenhagen.
The Oldest Preserved Christmas Heart
Making these heart-shaped Christmas ornaments of different strands of coloured paper and putting a handle on them, so they can be hung on the Christmas tree, is tradition which Danes believe is a quintessential Danish Christmas invention made by none other than the famous storyteller Hans Christian Andersen. And in some ways this is true.
The oldest preserved braided heart dates to the 1850’s and was made by H.C. Andersen, who was a very accomplished visual artist and preferred papercuts as his medium. But it was never intended or used as Christmas decoration, and it did not have a handle. Papercutting and the braided heart have their roots in Germany in the 17th century, and Andersen was not even the first to amuse children with sculpted paper.
The German pedagogue, Friedrich Fröbel (1782-1852), made paper cutting a pedagogical tool. He used braided strands of paper for stimulating the creative gifts of children and to teach them how to be patient. And patience is often needed for this craft, especially in the beginning.
A vibrant Scandinavian Christmas Tradition
Every Danish child has toiled over getting the strands of paper nicely tucked in without crumbling or destroying the delicate shapes of paper. And they have done so in Denmark and other parts of Scandinavia since the latter part of the 1800’s, where a person or persons unknown thought of putting a handle on the hearts and hanging them on the Christmas tree.
Maybe that is why this Christmas symbol holds so many feelings for many Scandinavians.
When you have sat as a child and worked with your own hands making an ornament, often with the accompaniment of holiday music and traditional Christmas foods, it impacts the young person’s mind and creates a very tangible Christmas memory.
You should try it too and in our shop, you can get inspiration from our take on the old Christmas symbols.
How to link