Well, with a name like “Red Hen”, you would expect that feathers are somewhere in the decorating scheme. Perhaps not as you expect. Certainly not from a local hobby or big-box decorating store (not that I don’t love them). And certainly not peeking up from vases or in faux-flower arrangements. Mine are on trees. Feather trees to be exact. Currently I only own two; but I certainly have plans for more.
The mid-19th century Germans originated the goose feather trees as a “green” alternative to cutting fresh trees for the household Christmas use. Turns out, even as early as the 19th century, deforestation was a big problem. And so, plucking your goose, dying the feathers green–or leaving them white for a snowy look–then twisting the long feathers around a wire armeture and securing with fine thread, simulated the needles on a tree branch. Multiply this by many branches and the feather tree is born. Many of them have small spun cotton berries at the branch tips (the spun cotton is wound over a wire and then dipped in red paint). The tree trunk is wrapped in a paper florist tape and then secured to a wood block that is gaily painted. Trees come in all sizes, but are most popular in sizes that fit on a small table top. The feather tree industry became a cottage industry in Germany with mothers, fathers and children all working around the table to make them for sale to the public. Local factories would supply the parts and the families would make extra money. Early trees went first to the German areas of the U. S. like Pennsylvania. Some may object to the “Charlie Brown” nature of the tree, but the trees were made to mimic the white pines in Germany, and the spacing between the branches allows for easy hanging of ornaments.
Newly made-in-America feather trees can be had from a very reputable company: http://www.feathertrees.com/ But hurry for these goodies as the owner is threatening retirement! Or, watch for a local antique show and visit a Holiday Dealer. They can recommend trees, help with their repair and maintenance, and sell you wonderful collectibles to hang on them. The Golden Glow of Christmas Past club, http://www.goldenglow.org/ is a great place to look for dealers and shows. Locally in Texas, visit with Pat White of Pat’s White Christmas Antiques from Langhorne, PA at the Antique Elegance Show in Dallas, the Big Red Barn Show in Round Top (January and June only), and Marburger Farm Antique Show. Also, there is Betty Bell from Dallas who shows at The Big Red Barn Show in Round Top as well as the Dallas Tower Show.
Many people display their trees year round for every imaginable holiday. They look great with eggs and Easter decorations, wonderful for the summer patriotic holidays with red-white-and-blue ribbons and little paper flags, and then on to Halloween and Thanksgiving!