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    

Hummel Goebel Figurine #301 Christmas Angel 6.25" Tall Tmk-6 Boxed Mw44Hummel Figurine - Christmas Angel - #301 - Tmk-6 - 1989 - 6" Tall (mint - W/box)Santa Claus Christmas Postcard Blue Robe Angel Toys Sleigh Rocking Horse C1910 La Angels Christmas In June Snapback HatWire-wrapped Gold Balloon. Paper Angel. 1920s Glass German Christmas Ornament.1951 Royal Copenhagen Christmas Plate. "christmas Angel"1908 Hold To Light Htl Christmas Postcard-angel With Christmas TreeAntique Christmas Ornament, Angel Bust With Spun Glass Wings�� Steinbach German Xmas Tree 3 Angels Wooden Music Box Handmade2 Vintage Christmas Singing Angel Bell Figurines ~ Japan Vintage Postcard Merry Christmas 454 Santa Claus Angel Horn Horse Toys StarsStampin Up Holiday Helpers-santa-elf-reindeer-angel-christmas-lot + CardChristmas Hold To Light Htl Postcard Angel Holding Tree Decorated With StarsVintage Geo Z. Lefton Puppy Under Dress Christmas Angel Bell Choir With BookVintage Madame Alexander Doll Angel Christmas Tree Topper BlondeVintage 1950's Kreiss Ceramic Christmas Baby Angels Oil Lamp Candle Holder!Vintage Christmas Angel Figurine Holding Present And LanternVintage Lefton's Mint Dress Christmas Angel Bell With Candy Cane Basket StarVintage Lefton's Mint Dress Christmas Angel Bell With Presents Gifts SpaghettiVintage Red Ribbed Mercury Glass Diorama Angel Christmas Ornament-italyChristmas-france Brundage-hold To Light-htl-angels-antique PostcardVintage Dimensions Angel Of Christmas Counted Cross Stitch Kit - NipAngels In Pine, Knitting Stockings * Glittered Christmas Ornament * Vtg Card ImgHallmark Mary's Angels Let It Shine 2015 Magic Christmas Keepsake OrnamentsSanta Claus Christmas Antique Postcard Pink Robe Silk Angels Sleigh Made AustriaVintage Christmas Card Brownie Angel Lighting Candle GreetingAngel Tokyo Disneyland Christmas Game Pin 2 Vintage Plastic Diorama Santa Deer Angel Christmas Ornament-italyAngel Christmas Vintage Girl Bell With Candy Cane Japan Label Glowing Noel Angels Pink Blue Robes Star 1940's Vintage Christmas Greeting Card1911 Bing & Grondahl Christmas Plate - "angels And Shepherds"Vintage To Now Pin Brooch Lot Christmas Angel Christmas Tree Poinsettias Bell Vintage Christmas Angel Cake/cupcake Toppers/decorations/picksVintage Relco Ceramic Noel Angels Christmas Candle Holders Japan Choir BoysNew** Hostess Pink Zebra Christmas Angel ShadeVintage Christmas Santa As Coach Driver Postcard Horses Tree Angel Gifts SnowLefton Christmas Angel Bells, Set Of 4 Rare Vintage Christmas Wax Angel Tree Topper Handmade West Germany 10" Koestel1986 Silver Art Bar For Dad 1 Oz .999 Canada Christmas AngelVintage 1950's Lefton Spaghetti Christmas Angel Bell + Choir Boy Girl W/ PackageChristmas Angel FigurineChristmas Angel FigurinePeace On Earth Christmas Angel Stocking Counted Cross Stitch KitChristmas-german-1917-soldier-angels-cupids-weihnachts-h82085Goebel Hummel Christmas Angel #301 Figurine #561Primitive Punch Needle Red Christmas Angel Sterling Silver Xmas Tree Angel Penguin Snowflake+ Winter Theme Charm Bracelet 1985 Silver Art Bar Faith Hope Love 1 Oz .999 Canada Christmas Angel3 Piece Vintage Christmas Decorations Angel Night Light Santa Candy DishesVintage Napcoware Japan Christmas Angel With Wreath Vase Planter Playmobil Christmas Figures Fairy Angels Klicks Rare New Bishops Castle Xmas BidVintage Flying Angel Netting Wings Christmas Ornament Circa 1950's - MintVintage Jewelry Lot Of Pins Brooches Christmas Angels Flower Lot Pins Wearable Vtg Hawthorne Christmas Greeting Card Caroling Angel Girls Santa Playing HarpVintage Christmas Card Brownie Angels Fence House Home Blue GreetingVictorian Christmas Greetings Card Of Angels Beautiful Colours Marcus WardAngel W/ Poinsettia & Candle * Glittered Christmas Ornament * Vtg Card ImgAngels Delivering Mail Angel In Mailbox 1940s Vintage Christmas Greeting CardVintage Christmas Card Angel Deer Birds Snow Signed Eve Rockwell UsedAntique Christmas Postcard Angel Cherubs Stars Nn Serie 601 Made Germany C1910