Every year, people rush into stores to purchase ornaments in preparation for Christmas, eager to decorate their homes with a festive spirit. But have you ever looked at a Christmas decoration and wondered about its history and the stories behind it?
Whatever the case, every decoration speaks monumentally, no matter the size or color—there is a story behind every decoration. Some are old and some are new. Some are handmade, and some are store-bought.
No matter where the decorations originate from, or how it was made, the most important thing about any decoration is that it carries meaning. There is meaning in why and how the people make the decorations.
Christmas decorations are part of a tradition that allows these stories to be told, expressed, or marveled at—something that may, or may not be overlooked in today’s age. In spite of the modernization that has taken place in many things around us, tradition can still be found.
In a mountainous village of the Czech Republic, a small family business, Rautis, still produces traditional Christmas decorations, where blown-glass beads are made—the only place to do so.
These beaded decorations date back to the middle of the 19th century, in a village named Ponikla.
This tradition of making the blown-glass beads is kept alive by under a dozen glass workers, who are determined to keep it alive, despite having very little time to do so.
“Even though it is [a] really tough job and you don’t have any free time, I’m glad that we have managed to maintain the craft and also we are doing something that brings joy to people,” says Marek Kulhavy, the director of Rautis in Ponikla, the small village in northern Czech Republic.
Every decoration has its own story—especially stories of how they came to be, the trees they’ve been on, and the celebrations they have witnessed through years of being on Christmas trees.
“When you have your Christmas decorations from your parents or when the kids make them in kindergarten, and you hang them on the Christmas tree, they carry the stories and become a family chronicle,” says Kulhavy.
“And that’s how our decorations fit in, because they already carry a story of their making.”
The tradition of blown-glass bead making has been nominated by the Czech Republic for inscription on the UNESCO’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Once used to decorate folk costumes, the beads found alternative usage in Christmas decorations when a Japanese competitor copied their method and mass produced the beads in the global markets of the early 20th century.
Today, the bead decorations from the Rautis company are exported to a number of European countries, Russia, and the United States.