Decorating the Christmas tree with shimmering tinsel has been around for centuries. Legend has it that a poor old woman was unable to provide decorations for her children’s Christmas tree. During the night, spiders lodged in the tree and covered it with their webs. The Christ Child, seeing this, turned the spider webs into silver, and the next morning the poor family was dazzled by the brilliant “tinsel” that shone on the tree.
Another legend says that when Joseph, Mary, and Jesus left Bethlehem, they hid from Herod’s soldiers in a cave one night . While they slept, a spider wove its web over the entrance to the cave so it would be unoticed by the soldiers. The next morning Joseph, Mary, and Jesus saw the glistening spider webs in the morning light. Tinsel on the Christmas tree is supposed to be symbolic of the spider webs that hid Jesus from Herod’s soldiers.
Tinsel made its first appearance around 1610 in Germany. Strands of sparkling tinsel were often added to early Christmas trees to accent the glow of lit candles or to recreate the starry sky over the Nativity. Basically tinsels are very thin sheets or strips or threads of a glittering material. Early tinsel was made of real silver. Machines were invented that shredded the silver into very thin strips. Though silver is a durable metal, it got tarnished quickly by the candles on the Christmas tree. The blackened tinsel was not pretty, so efforts were soon on to find a substitute. Experiments were made with a mixture of lead and tin, but this mixture was heavy and tended to break down under its own weight.
Because of its expense and fragility, metallic tinsel was used sparingly as a decoration. Only the wealthiest citizens were able to afford entire garlands of tinsel to wrap around the branches of their trees. Advances in manufacturing eventually made it possible to produce cheaper aluminum-based tinsel in substantial quantities. By the early 20th century, most homeowners could afford to incorporate tinsel garlands, as well as individual pieces of tinsel known as icicles. During the 1950s, the use of tinsel garlands and icicles nearly overshadowed the use of Christmas lights on trees.
So how do we transform this to make it a reminder of the birth of Jesus Christ?
Tinsel that we use today is usually gold or silver in color. In the Bible, gold is symbolic of diety (God) and silver is symbolic of redemption (the act of setting free). When you hang your tinsel, remember that God came to earth as Jesus; He was born to set all mankind, rich and poor, free from the power of sin.