Resources and How-to Guides
Christmas Tree Toppers: How to Choose, Prep, and Adorn Your TreeLearn quick tips on how to choose the ideal Christmas tree toppers to match your Christmas theme.
- The History of Tree Toppers
- The Most Popular Styles of Tree Toppers
- Choosing the Perfect Tree Topper
- How to Place a Christmas Tree Topper
- Safety Precautions
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The Christmas tree has, for centuries, stood as a proud centerpiece of the season. It embodies hope for the days ahead while its decorations represent the bounty of seasons past. The topmost ornament of the Christmas tree highlights the pinnacle of this story, and is the reason people continue to choose the best and brightest tree toppers to crown their own beloved trees.
The History of Tree Toppers
The tradition of using Christmas tree toppers began in Germany in the 1800s. The Rauschgoldengel, or the tingled angel, was a shiny golden foil angel that became popular during this era. The advent of patriotic accents in Great Britain eventually saw flags, such as the Union Jack, making their way to the tops of numerous Christmas trees. Today, two of the most popular Christmas tree highlights are the angel and star toppers, which are generally viewed as symbols of Christ's nativity.
The Most Popular Styles of Tree Toppers
The style of this tree topper varies from the regular five-point star to the more intricate Moravian design, which often has 26 three-dimensional points. Common materials used for star toppers include paper, plastic, wood, and glass, and toppers are usually fitted with a conical or spiral base.
Angels and Other Christmas Chracters
The angel tree topper is an all-time favorite when it comes to traditional Christmas decorating. This doll-like ornament is typically made of plastic, wood, or porcelain, and dressed in long gowns of silver or gold fabric. It also has a conical base to adequately support its size and shape and often comes with LED or incandescent lights.
Some doll-like tree toppers are based on other popular holiday characters, such as Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which add a whimsical touch to your tree.
Waterford Crystal Tree Toppers
Waterford crystal tree toppers are long cylindrical décor made entirely of glass or plastic. They feature a conical base and are commonly used for slim and narrow Christmas trees because they can produce the illusion of height without adding too much extra weight.
Nature-Inspired Tree Toppers
Tree toppers can make use of natural materials, such as leaves, twigs, barks, acorns, pine cones, and berries, or draw design inspiration from the shape and texture of these elements. A notable example of a nature-inspired topper is the version of the mystic nest by The Decorated House.
Ribbon and Hats
These large, fashionable bows and headdresses are easily put together using colorful fabric or ribbon. With their often sturdy and balanced base, these top ornaments are the lightest and easiest ones to place.
Choosing the Perfect Tree Topper
There are four main factors to consider when choosing a tree topper:
1. The Shape or Profile of the Tree
The purpose of placing a Christmas tree topper is to highlight the style and symmetry of your holiday masterpiece. The shape of your topper should always complement the profile of your Christmas tree, not distract from it.
Choose a star or angel tree topper if your tree has a full, conical profile. This decorating technique creates a vision of abundance. Always match the fullness of the tree with a topper that dons a look of boldness and brilliance.
For a narrow or slim tree, opt for an elongated topper, such as a Waterford, which consists of one or two spheres that lead up to a pinnacle, to complement the tree's svelte profile.
2. The Height of the Tree
The distance between the peak of your tree and the ceiling will also determine the height of your topper. As a standard, your tree topper should have at least 5 inches of space from the ceiling.
How to Find the Right Topper Height For an Artificial Tree
Since artificial trees come in fixed sizes, they can be adorned with tree toppers that suit their measurements. All you need to do is to gauge the dimensions of your space at home before buying the tree and the appropriate topper. Artificial Christmas trees come in a variety of heights ideal for homes with a vertical limit of at least 9 feet:
- 4 to 5½ ft trees - Christmas trees of this height can accommodate tree toppers as tall as 5 inches and as wide as 3 inches.
- 6 to 6½ ft trees - This is the average height of artificial trees. The ample space between the top of the tree and the ceiling allows for tree toppers as tall as 7 inches and as wide as 5 inches with proper fastening.
- 7 to 7½ ft trees - These trees can carry a tree topper with a height of 4 inches and a diameter of 4 inches with proper fastening.
How to Find the Right Topper Height for a Live Tree
One advantage of a live Christmas tree is that it can be trimmed to a specific size. This, however, requires additional time and effort. When the desired height of your Christmas tree has been achieved, simply follow the aforementioned steps for choosing the appropriate height for your tree topper.
3. The Weight of the Tree Topper
Another factor to consider is the weight of your tree topper. Because the peak is farthest from the tree's center of gravity, placing a heavy tree topper could cause the tree either to lean to one side or topple over altogether.
Attaching heavier tree toppers might require bending more than three top branches or using fastening materials, such as extra zip ties and artificial branches, to keep them in place.
The type of material used for the tree topper also adds to the weight. Lighter tree toppers are commonly made of paper, fabric, plastic, or fiber composites. Heavier tree toppers, on the other hand, are typically made of glass.
One quick test is to place the top ornament in an upright position carefully in the palm of your hand. If the topper begins to tilt within three seconds, this is an indication that you may need to bend the top tips of your tree for added support or install an extension kit that would balance the top ornament.
4. The Holiday Decorative Theme
Tree toppers serve as the crowning glory of your Christmas tree. The design must complement the overall decorative theme you have used—whether you have opted for traditional or trendy.
Traditional themes generally follow religious symbolism. The time-honored star topper represents the one that was said to have guided the Magi to Bethlehem.
Angel toppers, on the other hand, symbolize the heavenly creatures that witnessed and celebrated Christ's birth. From a design standpoint, these two popular Christmas tree toppers exude a look of classic elegance since they make use of intricate lines and textures and opulent holiday colors of red, gold, and green.
Modern ornaments feature simple designs suited for minimalist trees. The patterns and color schemes of contemporary tree toppers are often muted, but their contours and textures are sleek. The emphasis is on the shape of the décor rather than the embellishments.
DIY tree toppers add rustic charm to your holiday theme. With a little of your own personal style, you can easily create toppers made from upcycled or repurposed items. Some notable DIY tree toppers include this fabric pom tree topper and paper Bethlehem star with LED lights.
How to Place a Christmas Tree Topper
Once you've selected your favorite style of topper, it's time to add the finishing touch to your Christmas tree. Whether you have an artificial tree or the real thing, you'll have no difficulty completing your holiday look if you keep in mind the following tips:
- Tree Toppers with a Conical Base - Bend one of the top branches and carefully insert this into the cone. You can also crumple some of the surrounding branches for additional support.
- Tree Toppers with a Spring or Spiral Base - Insert the sturdiest branch into the coil. Fasten your top ornament to the tree by covering the spring with green floral tape. The adhesive keeps it in place, while the color helps conceal it.
- Ribbon Tree Toppers - Ribbons are the easiest to attach to Christmas trees since they are lighter than other decorative fasteners. You can also use pipe cleaners to reinforce support for your topper.
How to Use Additional Support for Tree Toppers
For heavier top ornaments, you can use fasteners, such as the Christmas tree topper extension kit from Balsam Hill, to add more stability. It includes an 18-inch metal rod, extra branch tips, and plastic zip ties.
How to Mount Prelit Tree Toppers
Many high-quality prelit Christmas trees feature a female electrical plug at the top where you can easily connect your tree topper. Simply secure your top ornament in place and plug it in.
1. Make sure to use a secure stepladder to reach the top of the tree.
2. Ask a friend or family member to keep the body of the tree steady as you fix the tree topper into place.
3. Consider the weight of the topper before attaching it to the tree.
4. Fragile decorations, such as glass or crystal toppers, should be kept out of the reach of children. If shattered or broken, these items could cause serious injury.
5. For prelit tree toppers, make sure that the wires and plugs are in proper working condition. Always inspect the connections for any loose wires or busted bulbs before plugging the unit into an outlet.
6. Disconnect the plugs for the Christmas tree and the topper before going to bed or leaving your home.
7. Keep your Christmas tree away from any water source. If you have a live tree, make sure to unplug the lights and other electrical connections before watering it to avoid electrocution.
8. Never use decorations that could potentially become a fire hazard.
Inspiration For Your Next Tree Topper
Along with being a traditional part of any tree, tree toppers can also be used as a statement piece to add extra flair to your holiday decorating. The following selection of exquisite tree toppers should inspire you to give your holiday celebration a personal touch:
Choose a Christmas tree topper that highlights clean lines and soft colors, such as this beige Moravian star topper made of wool felt. The emphasis is on the unique stellar shape rather than the embellishments.
New Sparkle to Classic Ornaments
This woven cardstock star topper uses gold glitter paper and takes the intricate pattern of a snowflake.
A Hint of Bucolic Charm
Decorate it with an illuminated twine ball made of jute the way Lauren of The Thinking Closet adorned her tree. The simple spherical ornament that sits daintily atop the evergreen is also very easy to place.
Royal crests, flags, and insignias, such as the French Fleur-De-Lis, serve as time-honored medallions that also work well as the centerpiece of a patriotic Christmas Tree.
A vintage lamp shade tree topper, with its circular frame, is ideal for crowning trees. Try embellishing your own lampshade with dried leaves, twigs, and berries to turn it into a charming replica of a bird's nest.
As you begin choosing your décor this holiday, remember to crown your efforts with a stunning tree topper that will match the beauty and style reflected throughout the rest of your home.