Some of the earliest tree-topping Christmas angels were made in 18th-century Germany. The figures were often formed of plaster on a composition armature, with bodies of sawdust and robes of brass-foil-covered paper. Some late-19th-century Nuremberg angels wear paper-and-foil crowns, while others are backed by pleated paper wings and wrapped in matching paper skirts. These pieces are very collectible today precisely because they are so fragile.

By the 20th century, construction materials such as composition, paper, and cardboard were still in common use, but fabric had replaced paper for angel skirts and other articles of clothing. Angels were attached to treetops by cardboard tubes, glass cylinders, or small springs. Some angels, like those made by Noma and other manufacturers, lit up; others caught light in starbursts made of spun glass radiating behind cotton clouds.

Below the treetop, hanging from the boughs of the tree itself, glass angel ornaments peeked through pine needles and branches of fir. Makers of embossed and hand-painted paper Dresden ornaments from the end of the 19th century also favored angels. Some were rendered as full figures; others were depicted as small flying putti. One of the most common types of Dresden angels featured just a disembodied head, with wings and a small halo framing the ornament’s childlike face.

At the turn of the 20th century, one of the most popular uses of angels was in metal chimes, which spun and rang thanks to heat generated by strategically placed candles. Between the world wars, Japan was a leading exporter of Christmas angels made of everything from celluloid to porcelain—Yona was one of the most recognized porcelain manufacturers. By the 1930s, both German and U.S. Christmas angels had graduated from celluloid to even harder forms of molded plastic—the numerous examples of German-made child angels dressed in white and beating toy drums or playing other musical instruments are especially charming.

After World War II, Christmas angels from Mexico, Central America, and South America were exported in large numbers. Many of these married traditional angel motifs with the iconography of local folk traditions—wood and earthenware were typical of the materials.

While Christmas trees were perhaps the favorite haunts of angels, the figures also found their way into other parts of the home during the holidays. German angel-shaped music boxes were quite popular, as were angel-themed ceramic bells. And many an angel graced a family’s decorative holiday platter, ensuring, perhaps, that the food presented to guests would be tasty and warming to the heart.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Papa Teds Place

Papa Teds Place

The late Theodore H. Althof, Jr's beautiful collection of vintage dimestore cardboard Christmas 'putz' village hous… [read review or visit site]

Antique Christmas Lights Museum

Antique Christmas Lights Museum

George Nelson's incredibly detailed chronicle of vintage Christmas tree lighting. Browsable by decade and special t… [read review or visit site]

Bohemian Christmas Decorations

Bohemian Christmas Decorations

This simple site showcases over 500 artistic Gablonz glass bead antique and vintage Christmas tree ornaments, made … [read review or visit site]

Old Soviet Christmas Cards

Old Soviet Christmas Cards

This site showcases over 1000 old Soviet Christmas and New Years cards from 1950 to 1990. Browse through page after… [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Christmas Angels Glides Down With Gifts Sign Pauli Ebner C1925 Must See !!!Lg C1940 Erzgebirge Wendt Kuhn Christmas Angels On Moons Rotate Music Box 9.5" 28 Lot Vintage Christmas Ornaments Pixie Dolls Santa Claus Elf Reindeer AngelsAntique Victorian C1900 Embossed German Christmas Card Angel * 3d Nativity SceneNo Crazing 6" Christmas Angel 301 Tmk6 Goebel Hummel Figurine Perfect ConditionVintage 1956 Napco Christmas Holiday Noel Bell Angels Decorations JapanVtg Geo Z Lefton Cozy Night Porcelain Angel Bell Girl Christmas Figurine FigureVintage Lefton #703 Boy & Girl Angels Noel Christmas Ceramic Figurine Vtg 1956 Napco Christmas Pixie & Angel Salt & Pepper Shakers Girl & Boy @nice@ Rare Vtg Goebel Hummel Christmas Angel Cherub Heavenly Lullaby With Baby Jesus14kt Gold Enamel Christmas Stocking Bell Angel Snowflake Tree Bracelet Jcm 3.8grVintage Lefton Candy Cane Sled Sleigh Children Angels Christmas #626Lot 6 Vintage Christmas Angels Tree Topper Ornaments Holt Howard Figurines JapanVintage 1956 Napco Christmas Angel Sister Noel Bells 3bx2381Vintage Italian Christmas Nativity Angel Accordion Cartapesta Paper Mache -italy3 Vtg Lefton H.h. 1956 Japan Christmas Angel Bells Howard Holt ? 80112 SignedChristmas Angels On Noel Letters, Vintage Artmark Vintage 1956 Lefton Naughty Sister Christmas Angel BellsVintage Beautiful Angel Hair Christmas Tree Topper Stars Spun Glass Dresden2 Vintage Napco ? Christmas Angels Porcelain Angel OrnamentVintage 1956 Napco Sister Christmas Noel Angel BellsGuardian Angel With Child. Some Issues, But Good. Glass Christmas Orn. Germany.Vintage Glass Diorama 4 Globe Christmas Ornament Santa, Angel, Church, Holly 12 Vtg Christmas Angel Chenille Spun Cotton Craft Corsage Pick Gift Pkg Ties LotAntique Angel Christmas Ornament Wax On Composition With Original Dress 11inchesVintage Tannenbaum Christmas Music Box Wood Tree Santa Angels Steinbach G.m.b.h.Nwt Victoria's Secret Angels Have More Fun Sweatshirt L Large Pink Christmas!1darling Vintage Christmas Lefton Angel Aqua Gold Bottle Brush Tree DecorationKirks Folly Heart Of The Dream Angel Christmas Tree Pin Brooch EnhancerVintage Christmas Tree Skirt Angels Ornaments,5 Day Sale!Vintage Koestell West German Wax Face Hands Christmas Angel Tree Topper Pretty! Lot 5 New In Box Barbie Holiday Angel Christmas Gala New Year Barbie Dolls3 Lefton Christmas Angel Figurine BellsLot Of Vintage Molded Plastic Mini Christmas Figures- Deer Reindeer/santa/angels1950s Christmas Erzgebirge Germany Wendt Kuhn Wooden Angel Music BoxVintage Wendt & Kuhn Musical Angels Christmas Candle Holder Trees Germany Scarce2000 Swarovski Crystal Christmas Memories Angel OrnamentVtg Light Up Hard Plastic Christmas Tree Topper Table Top Angel Works Wall HangLge Completed Cross Stitched Christmas Card-angel With Dove(7.5"x7.5")Vintage German Fold-out Christmas Card: Santa And Angel!Vintage Noma Halo Angel Illuminated Christmas Tree Topper ~ With Box ~ 1940's Waterford Christmas Crystal Glass Nativity Angel With LuteVtg 1950's Lefton Christmas Angel Bell Spaghetti Trim Red Dress Holding CandleVintage Christmas Ceramic Angels, Babies, Figurines - Set Of 4 - Japan Vtg Huge Cramer Ceramic Light Up Flocked Christmas Tree Cupid/angel Base 22"h Enesco Ruth Morehead Holly Babes Babies Angel With Cat 1991 ChristmasHp Needlepoint 18ct Painted Pony Designs Xmas Lights Angel W/bulb Strand-pd59Sterling Silver - 1983 Gorham Praying Angel 21g - Christmas Ornament Kr9071Jim Shore Christmas Spirit Shines Bright Musical Angel NibVintage Gurley Christmas Candles Lot 11 Angels Reindeer Snowmen10 Vintage Wooden German Democratic Republic Christmas Angels And Boy Figures4 Vintage 50’s Christmas Noel Blonde Hair Winged Angel Candle Holders Ex++Vtg Noel Angel Bells ~ Mantle Decor Christmas Tree Holiday Figurines DecorationsPrimitive Folk Art Handmade Christmas Winter Snowman Angel DollRare 2006 Mr Christmas Gold Label Angel Orchestra Symphony Surprise With Clock Soffieria De Carlini Angel With Wings & Feathers Italy Ornament ChristmasM.i. Hummel Angel Serenade With Lamb, Tmk 6, Christmas, NiceAntique Christmas Wax Angels And SheepNew! Led Fiber Optic Colors Victorian Angel Christmas Tree Topper 16"Adorable Fisher-price Little People Nativity Set Christmas Holidays Angel Lot