A tree-topper or treetopper is a decorative ornament placed on the top (or "crown") of a Christmas tree or Hanukkah bush. Tree-toppers can take any form, but the most common shapes are a star (representing either the Star of Bethlehem in a Christian Christmas tree or the Star of David in a Jewish Hanukkah bush), finials, angels ("Christmas angel"), or fairies. Other tree-toppers include paper rosettes, ribbon bows, Father Christmases or Santa Clauses, Christian crosses, owls, spikes and sunbursts.
Tree-toppers may be made of blown glass, metal, or plastic, among other materials. Plastic tree-toppers are often electric and once connected with the tree's lights glow from within. Following World War II, various symbols of Christmastide, such as Santa Claus, were introduced as electrified tree-toppers.
"On one branch there hung little nets cut out of colored paper, and each net was filled with sugarplums; and among the other boughs gilded apples and walnuts were suspended, looking as though they had grown there, and little blue and white tapers were placed among the leaves. Dolls that looked for all the world like men—the Tree had never beheld such before—were seen among the foliage, and at the very top a large star of gold tinsel was fixed."
Origin and use
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.— Luke 1:26–27 (KJV)
Use of a star represents the Star of Bethlehem:
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.'— Matthew 2:1–2 (KJV)
The use of the angel tree-topper goes back to the Victorian era, corresponding to the rise in popularity of Christmas trees in England. The Illustrated London News published a picture of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and their family around a Christmas tree topped with an angel, and by its influence the Christmas angel became the most common tree-topper.
Some Neo-pagan homes celebrate the winter solstice, which falls close to Christmas, by decorating an evergreen tree as a symbol of continuing life, but make an effort to decorate it with non-Christian symbols and often choose tree-toppers representing the sun.
Post-War NOMA plastic, electrified angel tree-topper
Media related to Christmas tree at Wikimedia Commons