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    

3 Erzgebirge Germany Wooden Christmas Angels Wendt & Kuhn German Folk Art Figure4 Vintage Wendt Kuhn Wuk German Erzgebirge Musical Angel Christmas 2.25" FigureXstitch Kit Dimensions Angel Of Christmas-pn95Lot Of Vintage Christmas Angel Paper Ornaments-made In JapanVintage 1958 Holt Howard Angel Pair Christmas Candle HoldersVintage Christmas Snowflake Angel Girl Holly Boy Salt Pepper Shakers FigurineVintage Rare 1956 Napco Christmas Flower Angel Girl FigurineVintage Postcard Lot 74 Christmas Angels Children3 Vintage 1956 Lefton Handpainted Naughty Angel Bell Christmas Ornaments25 Vintage Erzgebirge Christmas Angel Choir Boy Children Little Miss MuffetVintage Noma Christmas Treetopper Composition AngelPainted Pony Angel 'nite Before Christmas Blue + Charm Hp Needlepoint Canvas 18mVtg Dimensions Gold Collection Ccs Christmas Stocking Kit Angel Of Divinity4 Vintage Christmas Spun Cotton Chenille Stand Up Angel Christmas OrnamentAntique Wax German Angel Spun Glass Wings Christmas Ornament6 Vintage Erzgebirge Musical Angel Christmas 2.25" FigurePretty Vtg Modern Christmas Jewelry Lot Signed Gerrys Lenox & Estarl Angels+nr!Set Of 9 - Musical Angels On Clouds ~ Christmas Ornament ~ Vtg ImgAngel Girls In Pink & Blue, On Crescent Moon ~ Christmas Ornament ~ Vtg ImgThe First Noel, Precious Moments, E-2365 Angel Christmas Nativity AdditionDisney Scrooge Mcduck Angel Money Wreath Grolier Retired Christmas OrnamentVintage Napco Ceramic Christmas Angels- 4 Piece Set-very Nice!!Colorful Stained Glass Window, Angels, Baby Jesus ~ Christmas Ornament ~ Vtg ImgBeautiful Angel In Yellow Delivers Christmas Toys, Not Perfect, But Lovely Pc!Huge Lot 57 Piece Vintage Christmas Nativity Scene Figurines Angels Italy JapanJoy To The World, Musical Angels On Tree ~ Christmas Ornament ~ Vtg ImgStunning Christmas Angel Image Art Deco Flair Tuck Silver Emb Vibrant & SplashyVintage Ceramic Spaghetti Christmas Angels Salt And Pepper Shakers JapanDollhouse Miniature Artisan Christmas Lot Bear Tree Angel Nativity Scene SocksStunning Vintage Estate Bronze Tone Xmas Angel Earth Signed Jj Brooch! Lot 2531nChristmas Angel Stocking Needlepoint Kit Dimensions Gold Linda Green 16" 9135 Sterling Silver Christmas Ornament Gorham Herald Angel2 1995 1 Oz .999 Silver Christmas Silver Rounds Santa Claus & Angel Bullion Victorian Christmas Angel Franklin Mint Heirloon Pink Satin Hand Painted Kirks Folly Heart Of The Dream Angel Magnetic Enhancer Christmas TreeShepherds, Lambs, Angel, Holy Star ~ Christmas Ornament ~ Vtg ImgA1074 1908 Postcard Christmas Greeting Angels Heureux NoelVintage Relco Christmas Angels Poinsettia And Holly Salt & Pepper Shakers JapanLot Of 39 Debbie Macomber Heartwarming Romance Books~angel~christmas~dakotaFreebooters Miniatures Christmas Angel Nib Werner Klocke Limited Edition Counted Cross Stitch Embroidery Christmas Stocking Kit Angel NipRuby Heart Necklace Angel Wings Heart Necklace,christmas GiftRare Le 200 Signed De Carlini Italy Stained Glass Gold Girl Angel Xmas OrnamentJim Shore Musical Christmas Spirit Shines Bright, Christmas Tree Angel 2008 BnibRare Tpi Blow Mold Angel With Horn! Easter/christmas! Lighted 34" In GreenChipmunk Neighbors In Tree, Stockings, Angel ~ Christmas Ornament ~ Vtg ImgEarly 1900s Christmas Scrap - Angel In White Holding Xmas Tree - Chromo - TinselVintage Bucilla Angels'n Animals Deer Lambs Christmas Ornament Kit New!Vintage Josef Originals Christmas Angel Playing Harp FigurineVintage Napco 1956 Christmas December Angel BellFranklin Mint Christmas Angel Pax Sterling Silver Proof Coin No Reserve1998 Baldwin Brass 24kt Gold Finish 3d Heralding Angel Christmas Ornament Dimensions Mystical Angel Ornaments Cross Stitch Christmas Pattern Fabric FlossPopular Diao Daiwa Angel History Flower Towel Stocking Wig Christmas EveningRuby Heart Necklace Angel Wings Heart Necklace,christmas GiftItalian Blonde Curly Hair Musical Girl Angel Musician Xmas OrnamentJoan Thomasson Hand Painted Needlepoint Canvas Kit - Christmas Angel 19902002 Christmas Angel 1oz .999 Fine Silver Round By Silvertowne #2453-072001 Mattel Barbie Kelly Club Christmas Lot Of 4 Reindeer , Elf,snowman & Angel Delightful Lot 2 Vtg. Lefton Christmas Angels W/ Wreaths W/ Original Labels