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    

Four 1958 Holt Howard Christmas Spaghetti Angels Candle Holders Bells Muff JapanVtg Mid-century Xmas Angel Figure Holding Gifts Spaghetti Trim Napco Japan MintAntique Christmas Victorian Paper Scrap Ornament Tinsel Snow AngelVintage Glass Christmas Tree Ornament With Paper Scrap Angel On Glass Ball - (b)1880s Miniature Three Angels Adoring Jesus. Tinsel & Paper Xmas OrnamentChristmas Wood Shelf Sitter Cat Kitten Angel Folk Handpainted By D.dellingerGoebel Hummel Christmas Nativity Angel With Wings OrnamentHp Needlepoint 18ct Edie And Ginger Christmas AngelNew House Mouse Angels On High Wood Rubber Stamp Christmas Trumpet Snow Mice Vintage Erzgebirge Wendt Kuhn Angel Pulling Sled With Christmas Tree/toys CandleAntique Christmas Victorian Paper Scrap Ornament Tinsel Cellophane Angels LargeSanta Claus In Red Silk Suit Conducting Left Of Angels Singing~christmas~1907+Santa Claus In Red Silk Suit Conducting Right Of Angels Singing~christmas~1908Marie Flatscher Beautiful Christmas Angels With Lady Artist Signed Postcard#4174 Vla-c92 1992 Christmas Angel Lee Middleton 15" Doll Mint BoxLot Of 14 Nesting Dolls Halloween Christmas AngelLot Of Hallmark Miniature Christmas Ornaments Fairy Bunny Ballet AngelHallmark Christmas Ornaments - Mary's Angel Series -lot Of 28 OrnamentsWeihnachts German Christmas Nativity Pyramid Candles Wise Men Angels 13+"Beautiful Napco 1956 Angel Bell Figurine With The Letter E Christmas4th Hard Plastic Angel In Star Circular Shape. Christmas Ornament. 1950s U.s.a. 1880s Jesus With Three Angels. Elegant Miniature Tinsel & Paper Xmas OrnamentVintage Holt Howard White Girl Angel Feather Figurine Ceramic Xmas Wreath W/ TagPair 2 Vintage Lefton Christmas Angel Bell Figurine Holding Book Spaghetti TrimGeo Z Lefton Angel Christmas Bell Spaghetti Trim W/ Present Signed * VintageVtg W. Germany Revolving Angel & Christmas Tree Plastic Music BoxVintage Gorham Christmas Angel (yr 75) Sterling Ornament Excellent Pair Of Vintage Lefton Christmas Angel Candle Slide Climber #1315 Made In JapanVintage Christmas Card Lot Of 14 1950s Dandy Christmas Angel Candles 4-foldVintage Pauline Leidel Spreen Angel Tree Topper Christmas Bees Wax W. Germany Vintage Don Drumm Modernist Aluminum Angel Plays Mandolin Christmas OrnamentNapco 1956 Angel Bell Figurine With Wreath Or The Letter O ChristmasGoebel Hummel Christmas Angel Holding Lantern And AppleNew 30" Tall Vintage Union Angel Christmas Outdoor Blow Mold Light Up Yard Decor4th Hard Plastic Angel In Star Circular Shape. Christmas Ornament. 1950s U.s.a. 7 Vintage Bradford Plastic Metallic Cage Tear Drop Angel Hair Christmas OrnamentNew House Mouse Birdie Ful Duet Wood Rubber Stamp Angel Christmas Trumpet MerryAntique German Venetian Dew Christmas Ornament With Scrap AngelVintage Japan Flocked Christmas Ornament Lot Elf Angel Santa Ski Horse Felt 60s#6749 Vla-c89 1989 Christmas Angel Lee Middleton 16" Doll Mint BoxVintage Napco Christmas Angel Holding Gifts And Wreath 2 Angel Babies Sleeping In Crescent Moon ~ Glitter Christmas Ornament~ Vtg Img2 Vintage Christmas Figurines - Angel Christmas Caroler - Heavenly Hosts - JapanVintage Forget Me Not Christmas Greeting Card Glittered Angels In Sleigh NosMid Century Vtg Christmas Card Baby Angels Decorating Reindeer Antlers!4 Vintage Used Christmas Cards Angels Girls Glitter Flocking 1940s - 1950sChristmas Memories Swarovski Angel Crystal Ornament Gold Plating 19961975 Gorham Christmas Angel Sterling Ornament, Limited EditionRare Victorian German Childs Cup Angel Christmas Scene PorcelainVtg Bethany Lowe Christmas 21" Angel Primitive Musical Notes Wings And HatVintage Christmas Noel Angel Candleholders In Original Box Vtg Christmas Greeting Card - Brownie Rust Craft -starry Night Fence & Angels~ Looking At Angel In Store Window ~ Glittered Wood Xmas Ornament Vtg Card ImgKreiss Kids Christmas Merry X-mas Angel Salt & Pepper Shaker Set Large Stand Up Vintage Christmas Greeting Card ~pretty Angel Holding Lamb~Vintage Lot Of 6 Wooden Small Christmas Angels Vgvc2 Winged Angels W/ Music Book ~ Glitter Christmas Ornament~ Vtg ImgPostcard Hold To Light Angel With Flowers "a Glad Christmas"12 Pc Cookie Cutter Set Copper Color Metal Christmas Designs Santa Angel BelletcVintage Christmas Greeting Card By Mary Sweet Angel In A Wreath 1960s Hallmark