(As a nugget of history: presents were also placed on the tree or in your stocking, not under the tree. Presents were much smaller in Victorian times because disposable income for middle class families was much less then it is today.)
So, in honor of our ancestors, I am going to show you some of the easiest (and inexpensive) ways you can decorate your tree this year.
The first one is quite simple. Get some ribbon that you like (this is a great thing to do at the after Christmas sales - then you can save it for next year) and tie it on the tree in a bow. It is just that simple and very Victorian!
Here is a picture of one of my bows.
The next idea involves aluminum foil.
Victorian children spent the entire year saving aluminum foil to decorate their trees. Aluminum foil was not available in the stores like it is now. Aluminum was use by florists, wrapped around cakes of chocolate, cream cheese, large packages of tea and inside the paper used to wrap tobacco. Now, this foil was quite thin. I can just imagine how many pieces were torn as they tried to make the ornaments! I can certainly understand why it took all year to save enough to decorate the tree!
For my ornaments, I used heavy duty aluminum foil and I still scraped many of them because they tore as I handled them! However I imagine in Victorian times, if you started making these as a child, I bet you got to be really good at it by the time you were a teenager!
I saw this idea on a Craft blog a few years ago. You can see the original post here. To make an ornament, start with a piece of foil. I like the look of smooth foil, but they shine in the lights at night just a much if the foil is crinkly.
I like mine small, but if you are making these with children, bigger is better so they don't tear. I used a piece of foil about 1 inch by 4 inches (2.54 cm to 10.16 cm).
Fold it in half and cut it with scissors as described in the original post. Basically it says to cut on opposites sides of the foil for the entire length. I spaced mine about 1/8 of an inch apart (.20 cm). Here is a picture of mine.
Open the folded foil carefully! Once completely open and laying flat, gently pull at each end of the foil.
What the original post does not tell you is that this technique steps the decoration like stairs. So it is either coming towards you or going back away from you. For best results, don't make them too long. You can either hang with string or ornament hooks. Here is one of mine on the tree.
If you want to make them longer, I recommend a different technique. Fold over the foil, but make the cuts all on one side (similar to making fringe). When you unfold the foil, use a stick, handle of a toothbrush or something similar to open the ornament for you. (Pulling on this one won't work.) I used a barbecue skewer because that is the first thing I thought of.
When cut this way, the ornament hangs straight down and looks much nicer as a long piece. Here is one of mine on my tree.
The last idea is also super simple. Decorate your tree with cookies! I have made gingerbread men in past years and placed them on the tree. If you have dogs, this can be tricky. I remember one year I had a beagle that tried to climb the tree to reach a cookie! (My cat was never interested.)
All of these ideas were used by your grandparents and great-grandparents to decorate their trees! They don't cost much and the whole family can do it together! And, I bet it will also be something your kids never forget!