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 !!!Antique Bisque French Christmas Tree Fairy Angel Doll Boxed DecorationVintage 1956 Napco Christmas Holiday Noel Bell Angels Decorations JapanVintage Lefton Candy Cane Sled Sleigh Children Angels Christmas #626Vintage Lefton Ceramic Christmas Noel Angel Candle Hugging Angel FigurinesVintage Beautiful Angel Hair Christmas Tree Topper Stars Spun Glass DresdenSweet Vintage Christmas Pink Angel Candle Hugger Bottle Brush Tree Decoration3-1959 Napco Christmas Angel Bell Hanging Ornaments-package, Candle, DollVintage 1940-50's Glowing Ceramic Noel Angel Bells Christmas W/box Japan #860Vintage Italian Christmas Nativity Angel Accordion Cartapesta Paper Mache -italy{spun Glass Angel Christmas Tree Topper} Vintage - Antique Angel Hair / Foil NrVtg Plastic Christmas Lot~santa Angel Snowman Container Rosbro Ornaments LightsHouse On The Hill Springerle Cookie Mold Christmas Angel # 5655 Nwt Victoria's Secret Supermodel Angel Sweatpants L Large Black Bling Christmas!Sweet Vintage Christmas Lefton Reindeer Angel Pixie Bottle Brush Tree DecorationVtg Koestel Wax Angel Germany Christmas Tree Topper Ornament Mint In BoxJim Shore Christmas Spirit Shines Bright Musical Angel NibLefton Marika's Original Christmas Angel #4799Vtg Noel Angel Bells ~ Mantle Decor Christmas Tree Holiday Figurines Decorations2 Vintage Pink White Feather Christmas Angel Japan Holt Howard ? Tree Table TopLge Completed Cross Stitched Christmas Card-angel With Dove(7.5"x7.5")6 Vintage Murano Venetian Glass Angel Figurine Candlestick Christmas Nativity Vintage 1956 Napco Christmas Sister Angel Noel Bells, 3bx2381Jim Shore Christmas Angel "a Star Shall Guide Us" Heartwood Creek Figurine - NibWood & Resin Springerle Cookie Mold Christmas Angel German Dutch Folk Art Vintage Christmas Holt Howard Angel Candle Holder Bottle Brush Tree Japan 1958Vintage Napco Merry Christmas Porcelain Blonde Angel Girl Bell 1959 JapanVintage 6 Ft. Silver Aluminum Christmas Tree "angel Pine" 93 BranchesVintage 6-1/2' Angel Pine Silver Aluminum Christmas Tree 70 Limbs Minty Nice NrJames Avery Sterling Silver Christmas Angel OrnamentsKirks Folly A Cherub Christmas Symphony Pin Brasstone Angels MusicJim Shore Christmas Angel 2011 "glory To The Newborn King"Hp Needlepoint 18ct Painted Pony Designs Xmas Lights Angel W/bulb Strand-pd59Angel Christmas Tree Topper Vintage National Spun Glass In The Box Vintage German Wood Angel 7 Figure Orchestra & Two Unusual Wood Xmas TreesChristmas Set Of 2 Angels Outdoor Holiday Yard Stakes Decor NewVintage Christmas Brass Chimes And Candle Holder Reindeer And Angels Sweden?Stampin Up Holiday Helpers-christmas Santa-elf-angel-reindeer-lot + CardAntique Cartapesta Renaissance Angel Violin Paper Mache Nativity Christmas ItalyFontanini Nativity Paper Mache Large Angel Made In Italy Christmas Vintage Scene18 Vtg Christmas Angels Elves Ballerinas Ornament Spun Cotton Chenille Japan Vintage Noel Relco Candy Cane Angels Christmas Candle Holder DecorationChristmas Set Of 2 Angels Outdoor Holiday Yard Stakes Decor NewBaccarat Crystal Christmas Angel-made In France-near Mint Condition! Vintage Christmas Anri Ferrandiz / Jerrandiz Set Of 3 Wooden Angel OrnamentsVintage Emgee (hawaii) Angel Christmas Ornament- Excellent ConditionChristmas December Angel Figurine - Vintage - Spaghetti Trim1987 Hand & Hammer Sterling Silver Angel Christmas Ornament. Never Used! Mint!Vintage Shafford Noel Christmas Angels Candle Holders Japan 1950's W/boxAntique Cartapesta Renaissance Angel Paper Mache Nativity Christmas ItalyVintage 6" Koestel Wax Angel Christmas Tree Topper West Germany Gold IobVtg Christmas Nativity Creche Set 16 Figures Stable Italy 3 Camels 2 Angels LiteVintage Christmas Anri Ferrandiz / Jerrandiz Set Of 3 Wooden Angel Choir FiguresVintage Norcross Angels Christmas Cards 20 Delightful Little Angels With Box Lefton Japan Vintage Christmas Ornaments Angel Bells Porcelain Lot Of 6 W/box Large 19" Golden Angel Christmas Tree Topper / Centerpiece Real Feather Wings2 Handmade Antique Victorian Angel Scrap Tinsel Christmas OrnamentsLot Of 2 Reed & Barton Sterling Silver Christmas Ornaments 2007 Cross & AngelSonny Angel 2014 Christmas Santa Cake Reindeer Poinsettia (4) Set Mini FigureOld Wood Wooden Christmas Angel Candle Carousel 14" German? Erzgebirge?