Christmas trees are an inseparable part of Christmas, but there certainly there are countless ways of decorating them, according to cultural taste. In the Czech Republic, hand-made decorations have a long tradition. However, as Alena Skodova reports traditional Czech decorations are now facing competition from abroad.
My grandmother was born in the year 1901 and I remember her telling me that when she was a little girl, her family's Christmas tree had only decorations from nature: pieces of apples or pears or dried plums, some nuts and just very simple paper decorations which people usually made themselves. But several years later, simple decorations were replaced by more lavish ones, when the mass production of glass decorations began. In Czechoslovakia, there were many companies and glass workshops that produced glass decorations of all kinds, whose specialty was having each piece blown and hand-painted individually. This tradition continues even today, and as a result Czech-made Christmas tree decorations can be found around the world. In the Czech Republic itself, though, they find themselves facing tough competition of much cheaper decorations that come from remote countries such as China. These, however, are machine-produced, so they are of a different quality and character. Robin Bem, trade manager of the BPV Leni company, which sells Christmas tree decorations, says cheap decorations can't compare to traditional, hand-painted products:
"Czech-made Christmas decorations are more expensive, but they are hand-made which makes them look more beautiful. It may be possible to buy cheap ones produced in China, Poland or Romania, but customers with common sense usually buy those which match traditional Czech taste."
Christmas tree decorations are also dependent on fashion trends, and while for many years the most frequent colour was red, now it's a wide variety of colours, with blue being the vogue. But in the Czech Republic many people return to ancient traditions and decorate their trees in the 'old Czech Christmas' style, although with slight differences: slices of apples or oranges mixed with simple decorations made of straw or other natural materials. Interestingly, one of the hits of the season here are also small figures imported from Mexico:
"These are a bit more expensive than, say, Chinese straw decorations which are flooding the Czech market. That's because they are of a higher quality. They are produced by Mexican Indians who make them of maize straw, which lasts longer than rice straw coming from China."
Well, it's up to everyone's taste what their Christmas tree will look like. More important, of course, is that families gathering around the tree are happy, and not only at Christmas time.
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