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    

Lot Of 4 New Christopher Radko Christmas Ornaments Rare Painted Angel, ChurchVintage 40-50's Christmas Angel Lefton Figurine Bell Ringer9pcs Vintage Erzgebirge Germany Wooden Christmas Figures Mini Angel BandLovely Angel Head Vintage German Glass Christmas Ornament!Vintage Napco Christmas Bell Angel CarolerSwarovski 2014 Christmas Large Snowflake Ornament 5059026 Ball Hello Angel StarVintage Christmas Decoration Angel Figurines Japan Josef Originals7 Pcs Vintage Erzgebirge Germany Wooden Christmas Figures Mini Angel BandBeautiful White & Lavender Lladro Angel Holding A Sheet Music Xmas Tree Topper3 Vintage Holt Howard China Head Feather Christmas Angels, Japan, 7.5 Inches TalRing Those Christmas Bells Precious Moments, 525898 - Angels1880s Victorian Angel In Bell. Wonderful Tinsel & Paper Xmas OrnamentRing Those Christmas Bells Precious Moments, 525898 - AngelsVintage Pipe Cleaner Christmas Ornament Lot Half Moon Star Angels Horn Cymbal NrMexican Christmas Candelabra Pottery Nativity Angels Candle HolderVintage Pink Tule Netting Christmas Xmas Angel Tree Topper Ornament Ceramic Head8 Vintage Spun Cotton Chenille Santa Angel Snowman Christmas Pick Trim-japanPlaymobil Fairy Princess Angel Castle Christmas Custom Cute Fantasy Figures! Vintage Tulle Netting Christmas Xmas Angel Tree Topper Ornament Ceramic HeadVintage Christmas Lefton Ceramic Shopper Girl Angel Holding Candy Canes Japan Vintage Christmas Lefton Ceramic Shopper Girl Angel Holding Candy Wreath Japan Vintage Spun Glass Tree Top Angel/box-national Tinsel Mfg. Co. ChristmasVintage Tulle Netting Christmas Xmas Angel Tree Topper Ornament Ceramic HeadVintage Christmas Geo Z Lefton Fallen Angel Bell Little Girl W Doll Japan As IsHallmark Christmas Pageant Wireless Children Choir Angel Child8 Vintage Christmas Gurley Candles Lot Angel Snowman Candlestick Choir Tree DeerVintage 1950's Tmj Christmas Xmas Angel Figurine With Label Vintage German Lauscha Glass Christmas Tree Ornament Decoration Angel BaubleChristmas Angel (dvd, 2012). Kevin. SorboUnused Vintage Die-cut Hallmark Little Girl Angel Lamb Greeting Card ChristmasOld World Christmas Regal Angel Fish 12408 Glass Ornament Vintage Set Of 8 Christmas Pixie Elf Angel Santa Bell Ornaments Japan New With Tags Christopher Radko Guilded Angel Christmas Tree Ornament11 Vintage Christmas Chenille Net Cotton Spun Tie Ons Angel Fairy Santa Lot ϿHark Herald Angels Sing, Window ~ Christmas Ornament~ Glittered Vtg Card ImgVintage House Pin By Lucinda, Colorful Christmas House Pin And Cat And Angel EucVintage Christmas Tree Topper Paramount Illuminated Angel Ob Raylite Electric NyThe First Noel, Precious Moments, E-2365 Angel Christmas Nativity AdditionThe First Noel, Precious Moments, E-2365 Angel Christmas Nativity AdditionChristmas Girl Angel Before Tree Signed Marie Flatscher C1930 Rare L@@k !!!1/20 Oz. Isle Of Man Gold Angel, 1986 - Christmas Tree Privy MarkAngel W/ Bird On Mailbox W/ Holly ~ Glittered Christmas Ornament ~ Vtg Card ImgVintage 1960's Jewel Brite Diorama Angel Teardrop Plastic Christmas Ornaments Vintage Christmas Mini Angels Figures Set Of 6 Original Box Germany Angel With Deer In The Snow - 1950's Vintage Christmas Greeting Card#2333 50s Angel Girls Ride The Glittered Snowflakes-vtg Christmas Card-greeting#2291 50s Eve Rockwell Angel & Deer-vintage Christmas Card-greetingVintage Christmas Greeting Card Angel Reindeer By Charot Byj Fr Ars Sacra Eb4531Christmas Clothespin Angels To Crochet 5 Patterns1997 Wallace Sterling Christmas Angel & Mandolin Heart Ornament Sterling Silver Puffy Waving Christmas Angel Ornament 2 1/2" 14.4 Grams, .925Glittered - Angels, Noel - 1950's Vintage Christmas Greeting CardCupid Angel Brings Christmas Tree Children In Bed Sign Hoger 1928 Must Look !!!Napco Christmas Angel Ceramic FigurineHallmark Angelica 2006 Mary's Angels Limited Repaint Christmas OrnamentsChristmas Angel Holding Young Deer ~ Glittered Christmas Ornament ~ Vtg Card ImgVtg Porcelain Christmas Angel Figurine W/ Gold Halo CandlesOld World Christmas Flame Angel Fish 12389 Glass Ornament Vintage 1986 Fontanini Depose Italy Simonelli Cherubs Angels Christmas Free S&hGlittered - Angel & Bunnies Circling Tree - 1960 Vintage Christmas Greeting Card