How to Make a Victorian Paper Chain: History and Directions for a Children’s Christmas Decoration

The paper chain consists of rings of colored paper glued together to form a chain for use in decorating a Christmas tree, banister, mantle piece, or doorway during the holidays. The paper chain, easy and fun to make, began in Victorian England.

Paper Chain’s History in Victorian England

Queen Victoria of England (reigned 1837-1901) married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, a region of what is now Germany, in 1840. Alfred brought many German Christmas traditions to England, including decorating a Christmas tree.

Victorians lived in the midst of the Industrial Age, but factories and production lines did not churn out their Christmas ornaments. Victorians decorated their homes and trees with items they made themselves or had in their homes already. It was common to string dolls and small tin soldiers onto the tree, as well as place candies and bits of nuts and fruit among the branches.

Women who cared for the children at home made ornaments and decorations out of common household items, such as scraps of material and lace, natural objects, and even pieces of food. Victorians embraced simplicity in all their decorations. Needle with thread pierced last year’s Christmas cards to string them into a banner. Ivy and holly cut from the bushes outside decorated the mantle, and a simple paste of water and flour mixed together aided children in making paper chains. Any left over items could become a Christmas ornament with work and creativity.

While the women sewed lace on dolls and strung together garlands of evergreens, something had to keep the children busy. Victorian children made ornaments, such as stars and doves, from paper or foil and festive colored chains from strips of paper as their contribution to the family’s Christmas decorating.

How to Make Victorian Paper Chains

For Victorian Paper Chains, one will need:

  • Red and green, or other colored, construction paper or heavy paper where children have colored their own Christmas scenes or patterns
  • Enough bowls for everyone participating, with about a tablespoon of water and a tablespoon of flour per bowl.
  • A glass of water, for re-wetting paste, and extra flour, for making more paste as needed
  • Q-tips for each bowl.

To make the chains:

  1. Cut the construction paper into strips of desired size. The thicker the strips, however, the more paste it will take to hold them.
  2. Mix flour and water in each bowl to make paste. Add more flour or water as needed to make paste thick but not lumpy. Note that the paste in bowl will solidify over time, so add more water as needed.
  3. When paste is ready, apply about a half inch down on one end of a paper strip with a Q-tip. Connect the strip to form a loop. Hold the paper together firmly for at least thirty seconds, so that it will stay glued.
  4. Stick another strip of paper through the first paper loop. Repeat step 3 until chain is desired length. Let chain dry for several hours before hanging.

Use chains to decorate the Christmas tree, doorways, children’s beds, or anywhere in the home that needs a bit of holiday cheer.

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