Immigrants introduce kugel tradition to U.S.


Kugels are traditional holiday (and even year-round) decorations originating in Central Europe. First invented by craftsmen in Germany in the Biedermeier period (about 1830), these hollow glass ball ornaments didn’t appear in the United States until the late 1800s, where they are often called “friendship balls.”

Three bright silver kugels in assorted sizes and shapes, some minor areas of finish loss. 2 inches to 5 inches long, Good-Very Good condition, $463. Photo courtesy Bertoia Auctions

Three bright silver kugels in assorted sizes and shapes, some minor areas of finish loss. 2 inches to 5 inches long, Good-Very Good condition, $463. Photo courtesy Bertoia Auctions

The hole left in the glassblowing process is filled with an ornamental brass cap and fastened to the ball with twisted wire, allowing for ease of hanging. The earliest kugels were thick-walled and too heavy to hang on the branches of a tree; instead, they were often hung from the ceiling. Smaller, lighter ornaments were later created to adorn the tannenbaum, sometimes in the shapes of fruits.

The invention of the Bunsen burner in 1855 allowed glassblowers to craft much thinner-walled creations. Modern glass artisans continue to create one-of-a-kind kugels in a full spectrum of colors and broad range of shapes.

According to The Golden Glow of Christmas Past, a non-profit group dedicated to studying the historical and educational background of antique and vintage Christmas items prior to 1966, you should learn as much as you can about kugels before you begin investing in them.

Color and form are the keys to desirability and value. The Golden Glow maintains balls are the most common kugel form, but an amethyst colored ball would be uncommon. Grapes are the next most common shape. They were blown in many different molded patterns with the rarest being red and amethyst grapes. Free blown shapes like eggs, pears and Kugel1teardrops are more desirable, especially in more uncommon colors like red and amethyst. Some eggs and balls were blown in a ribbed design that are highly sought after. Rare and hard to find shapes would be artichokes, berry clusters, pinecones and other fruit shapes that were mold blown.

The Golden Glow of Christmas Past is a wealth of information on many Christmas-related collectibles, including angels, belsnickles, books, candy containers, post cards and cards, clip-on ornaments, feather trees, candy and chocolate molds, nativity figures, Victorian ornaments and more.

Each year in July, the group holds a convention in a different host city in the United States that is attended by approximately 600 dedicated Christmas enthusiasts from around the world. Convention activities include an auction, a sales room, lectures, workshops, roundtable discussions, expert panels, displays of members’ collections and more.

Golden Glow spokesman Bill Steely says, “For collectors of antique Christmas, there is no better opportunity to add to their collections than at a Glow convention. There is a wide variety of Christmas available to sell or purchase from many different time periods. No matter what your collecting interest, you will find something rare at a Glow convention.”

Annual Golden Glow membership ($50) includes six issues of the club’s print magazine, attendance and participation in the national convention, networking with and learning from other collectors of antique Christmas, annual membership directory and more. Learn more about antique kugels and other Christmas collectibles by visiting

Learn more about The Golden Glow of Christmas Past by contacting or by visiting

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