Gilded Walnuts - How to Make Victorian Christmas Decorations
Gilded walnuts make a very effective Christmas tree decoration and for centuries they have delighted children, because, pretty as they are, they may also be cracked open to conceal a hidden treat or fortune.
Old-fashioned Victorian Christmas trees were decorated with colorful fruit, raisins, pretty paper baskets filled with candies, snowy chains of popcorn, and gilded walnuts. Candles of many colors gleamed like stars from out the deep green foliage of the tree, while beneath the glittering boughs were concealed a collection of gifts.
At Christmas, gilded walnuts were often tied with a narrow red ribbon and hung to the upper boughs of the Christmas tree, at times concealing a hidden fortune or a small trinket. Tradition has it, that this style of ornamental gift must hang on the tree until New Year's Day. A Victorian magazine, the Delineator, described the necessary steps to craft holiday gilded walnuts. The preparation of these old-fashioned Christmas tree ornaments can be a delightful Christmas craft if there are several young persons in on the secret.
To make gilded walnut Christmas ornaments, you will need walnuts, gold leaf, red ribbon, glue, paper, and straight pins. First, crack open the nuts so there will be two perfect half shells to each (Fig. 25). English walnuts are the best for this Christmas craft. Remove the nut contents. In little time you can turn these simple walnuts into charming handmade Christmas ornaments.
Inside the empty walnut shell, place a saying or motto which will tell the fortune, or part of it, of the recipient of the Christmas ornament gift. Ideas will come to you as the work goes on. As a hint to help a little at the start, cut two hearts of red paper and fasten them together with a dart made of a pin and a piece of white paper (Fig. 26). This denotes that the girl or boy who gets it will be the first to marry.
Fig. 27, the water-color brush, means that the recipient of this gilded walnut to whose lot it falls will be an artist. Fig. 28 signifies ability to appreciate music. Fig. 29 ensures plenty of worldly goods. One suggestion gives rise to another, and you will easily think of more than enough for all the empty nutshells.
After the "fortune" is placed within the nut, glue the halves firmly together. When dry work a tack in the end where the stem grew, twisting it slowly that the shell may not split or break. When the tack seems firmly in place, proceed to gild the entire nut, including the tack. Cover the walnuts with gold leaf, following the manufactuer’s instructions, rotating as they dry so that all the surfaces are covered. Let the nuts dry completely.
Next tie a strong ribbon on the gilded walnut to attach the handmade ornament to the tree. Red ribbon looks particularly prominent against the metallic background. Hang the handmade Christmas ornament on the tree. As all the gilded walnuts look exactly alike, no one can tell which is which - not even those who made them will know who receives the different "fortunes" until the nuts are opened and the secrets revealed.
Remember, these nuts are not edible due to the gold leaf, glue, and pins.
[FROM: "CHRISTMAS TREE DECORATIONS, Good to Eat & Good to Look Upon". The Delineator, Dec. 1901]
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