Gilded walnuts were popular Christmas tree ornaments in the Victorian era. Victorian gilded walnut ornaments are easy, cheap and beautiful natural Christmas decorations – all you need are walnuts, ribbon and gold acrylic paint.
‘Then the ladies called us into another room and there was the Christmas tree! […]There were dozens of little candles upon it all alight. And it was covered with pretty things, gilded walnuts, and oranges, and apples, and sweets.’ (Philips’ Series Of Reading Books For Public Elementary Schools, 1874, p. 57)
The Gilded Walnuts – A Victorian Tale
‘One Christmas eve, a group of children were assembled round the tree, which the Germans are accustomed to prepare on this day, to amuse their children. As it was illuminated on all sides by brilliant lights, its green branches might be seen laden with all sorts of sugar-plums and little play-things, that were suspended from them.
There were some gilded walnuts, that especially attracted the attention of little Peter, and he wished to possess them. His mother said to him, “My son, these gilded walnuts have only been put there to embellish the tree. Therefore let us leave them there. If you wish to eat some walnuts, here are some for you.” But Peter cried desperately. “The brown walnuts do not please me,” he said: “I want the golden ones. They must have much sweeter kernels.”
The mother knew that often the best way to punish wayward children, is to yield to their capriciousness; so she gave him the golden walnuts, and distributed all the brown ones among her other children. Peter, in great delight, hastened to crack the beautiful nuts. But to his disappointment and sorrow, they were all empty; and his brothers and sisters began to burst out into laughter, and ridiculed him.
His father then said to him, “These walnuts were only intended to please the sight, and not to be eaten. I did not want to lose good walnuts, so I took some empty shells, fastened them together, and covered them with some gilt paper. There are many things in the world like these deceitful walnuts; they are brilliant outside, but empty within.”‘ (200 Pretty Tales, 1858, p. 62f.)
Gilded Walnuts As Victorian Christmas Tree Decoration
The Victorian Christmas tree was decorated with ‘gilded and shining fruits’: ‘apples, nuts, and all sorts of sweetmeats between burning wax-tapers.’ (The Guardian, 1865, p. 55/ p. 333)
A ‘merry company of children assembled round that pretty German toy, a Christmas Tree. The tree was planted in the middle of a great round table, and towered high above their heads. It was brilliantly lighted by a multitude of little tapers; and everywhere sparkled and glittered with bright objects. There were […] real fruit, made artificially dazzling with gold leaf; imitation apples, pears, and walnuts’ (Households Words, 1850s, p. 103f.).
Related:The Victorian Christmas Tree
‘The large tree stood on a low table, and reached nearly up to the ceiling. There were only lights, colored ribbons, and gilded walnuts hung upon it’ (Catholic World, 1876, p. 488).
‘The ‘Christmas tree, lighted up with tapers, and hung round with gilded walnuts and flowers.’ (Letters from Hofwyl, 1842, p. 35)
‘That night they trimmed the Christmas tree with such pathetic odds and ends of colored paper rosettes, gilded walnuts, popcorn strings, and wax-choked, tin candle-holders’ (Good Housekeepin, 1919, p. 144).
‘Gold walnuts […] a pretty Christmas tree decoration. Take a number of walnut shells and gild them and fill them with small toys. Punch small holes in them so as to tie ribbon through, and string them on the tree.’ (New-York Tribune, 1907)
‘When you are cracking English walnuts […] save the unbroken halves of the shells […] gild a great many with gold paint. For Christmas tree ornaments glue the gilded halves together, placing a piece of heavy rope tree tinsel about five inches long in between, so that the golden nuts may be hung on the Christmas tree. If tinsel is not at hand use half-inch red or yellow ribbon.’ (Los Angeles Herald, 1910)
Victorian Gilded Walnut Ornaments – Tutorial
- red satin ribbon
- gold acrylic paint
- wood glue (or other glue)
Carefully split the walnuts in half with a knife and remove the meat. Make sure to keep the matching halves together. Paint the walnut shells with gold acrylic paint and allow to dry.
Glue a piece of ribbon to the top of the walnuts. Then paint wood glue around the edges of the shells and glue the walnut halves together.
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