Holiday ribbon has been a tradition dating back a couple hundred years. Until the industrial age, strips of decorative fabric were only available to the wealthy, as they were made from silk and other hard to acquire materials. As soon as the middle and working classes had access to them, though, they were suddenly everywhere. Before long, they were integrated into the Christmas season and became a staple in gift wrapping and decorating. Now, they are plentiful and available in a number of colors and designs, so they can be coordinated into nearly any display in ways limited only by the imagination.
Perhaps the most popular holiday ribbon is bright red, with a slightly rough fabric front and a smooth back. It comes in several sizes, ranging from half an inch wide to six inches wide or more. This beautiful adornment is ideal for hanging from a wreath, using on a tree, or a wrapping a door like a gift. Another popular use is wrapping them around stately columns in front of the home. They can also make a statement when winding them around staircase banisters or adding them to garland. Though older versions of the material were made from silk, most modern bows and fabric strips are made with flocked polypropylene, a thermoplastic polymer. The polypropylene offers several advantages over silk and other materials. For one, it is sturdier, resisting harsh weather, tearing, and general wear much better than other fabrics. It will also maintain its color much longer and won’t dirty as it ages. Polypropylene also keeps its shape well, so if tied into bows or other designs, it will remain in place even when subjected to wind or snow.
The cherry red holiday ribbon was first incorporated into Christmas as a way to finish off a wrapped gift. Until the red bow was adapted for Christmas use, people delivered gifts to each other in paper cones. A Christmas-themed short story written in the late 19th century changed that when it suggested the idea of using the red bow.
Today’s decorative fabric is much different than what used to be available, and not just because it is made with cutting-edge thermoplastic. In addition to the classic bright red holiday ribbon, people can now find a spectrum of colors, including gold, white and green. They also come in a seemingly endless number of designs, like graceful floral ornamentation, gold swirls, religious imagery, or Christmas themed designs including snowflakes and candles. With so many designs to choose from, the fabric can be adapted for use around the home or used to change up the standard gift wrapping approach.
As time has gone on, ribbon has become a part of the larger Christmas fabric. It has even found its way into many charities, who use it to gift wrap presents for donations. Some of these organizations include the Sierra Club and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, so it’s fair to say that holiday ribbon not only ties the season together, but people as well.