Christmas decorations in Victorian and Edwardian times

Christmas decorations - paper chains

Christmas decorations in homes used to be hand-made in the past. This page explains how from firsthand experience. It describes the paper and the glue and much more, and includes decorations for Christmas trees.


Extracted from the memoirs of the webmaster's mother (1906-2002) and edited by the webmaster with further research

The paper for paper chains

In my childhood in the early 1900s, children would make paper chains for decorating our homes. We enjoyed doing it, and never considered bought Christmas decorations.

Our parents bought us sheets of coloured paper which we cut into strips.

There were of course no special children's scissors. If we cut ourselves it was just considered to be our own fault.

Only much later, ready cut strips could be bought in shops., but the chains themselves were still handmade in my childhood.

making and hanging paper chains

Children making Christmas decorations by gluing strips of coloured paper into linked rings to make paper chains.

The glue for the paper chains

We made our own glue with equal parts of flour and water, stirred to a uniform consistency. No cooking was required. Then we glued the ends of a strip together, linking them round another strip to make the chain.

Gloy glue paste

By the mid 1940s it was common to use a glue paste called Gloy which came in a glass bottle with its own brush in its cork stopper.

How the paper chains were hung in rooms

There was no sticky tape. The paper chains were hung across the room by securing them to the picture rails with drawing pins, pinned into the horizontal top parts of the picture rails. This meant that the paper chains were above head level and that the holes from the drawing pins were invisible from room level after the paper chains were taken down.

There was always the temptation to attach the paper chains centrally where there was a central gas lamp, but this was dangerous because the heat for the flame could set the paper alight. An alternative was to loop them round the walls.

Christmas trees and tree decorations

Large organisations had Christmas trees - real ones. There were no imitations.

Possibly elaborate decorations for these trees were bought, but they were probably mainly handmade by older children or artistically inclined adults.

early 1900s school christmas tree

The school hall of Silver Street School, no doubt decorated by the children. Photo courtesy of Simon Benbow.

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased if you would contact me.

Text and images are copyright

sources: early 20th century material      sources: ww2 home front and other material     contact
the webmaster/author/researcher/editor     privacy policy