Feather Trees: Yesterday’s Christmas Decor, Today

By Marie Proeller Hueston | Updated Nov 18, 2013 12:16 PM

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A century-old tradition, these artificial Christmas trees continue to charm homeowners and DIY enthusiasts alike.

Feather Christmas Trees at MaisonDecor

Photo: Maison Decor

Like many of our cherished holiday decorating traditions, feather trees originated in Germany during the Victorian era. Their construction was simple but ingenious. Dyed goose feathers were attached to branches with wire to resemble pine boughs. The branches were then inserted into a wooden dowel “trunk”, which in turn was set into a base. Tiny faux berries or candleholders sometimes graced the tips of branches as well.

Feather Christmas Trees - Vintage German

Vintage German Feather Tree

Feather trees were brought to our shores by German immigrants in the early part of the 20th century, enjoying widespread popularity with American consumers during the 1920s and 1930s.

Importation was halted during the Second World War, and in the years that followed, the use of feather trees declined. The delicate decorations now seemed a bit old-fashioned for post-war tastes.

Slideshow: Trending Now: Feather Trees

Collectors kept the tradition alive. Today, feather Christmas trees have made a comeback. Antique examples are highly sought after by some, but their high price tags ($300 and up) and fragile condition lessen their appeal to others. Fortunately, there are numerous new creations to choose from, many of which sell in the $40 to $80 range.

The classic styles feature green branches with red berries or ivory branches. Updated variations boast bright colors like fuchsia, lime, and turquoise.

Tall feather trees can be found, but most are intended for tabletop use and commonly measure between two and three feet in height.

Feather Christmas Trees - Goose Feather

Artisan Dennis Bauer wraps a goose feather to make a traditional feather Christmas tree. Photo: Michael Chritton for Arron Beacon Journal

Feeling crafty? Many people choose to make their own feather trees, either in the traditional manner of wiring goose feathers to branches, or in an alternate style where soft feathers are layered in rows up the sides of a wood or Styrofoam cone.

For more on holiday decorating, consider:

Holiday Lights 101
Christmas Trees—Real vs. Artificial?
Bob Vila Radio: Picking a Christmas Tree