I had to explain that they were cut into thin strips, and hang off of the branches, one strip on a branch.
I guess I was still a kid when they stopped selling these. But we always had lead icicles on the tree, and when they were deemed unsafe, and the icicles all changed to mylar or other kinds of plastic, very few of us were looking ahead to stockpile the old kind. After about 40 years of the nonsense of mylar icicles blowing across the tree with the slightest breeze, and finding their way all the way through the cats’ digestive systems, I did an eBay search for the good old days.
I got some for $10 about 7 years ago, but they’re still out there today:
Of course now they’re collectible not just because they are no longer made, but because the graphics on the boxes are so nice.
I wish I could show you a some that are new in the box. This first picture shows another bunch I found at the auction, not exactly in pristine condition, but useable:
We used to have to separate them into strands. My dad would straddle the piano bench and lay them out individually in front of him. It’s better if you run them through your fingers to straighten them. Then we would go pick them up and put them on the tree, one by one. Quite tedious.
Here’s a photo from Flickr (via Pinterest) that shows another example:
Because we didn’t want to spend the extra money every year to get a new box, we tried hard to reuse them, but eventually there would be too many small pieces, and we’d get new ones. I distinctly remember seeing discarded trees on the curb with the lead icicles still on them, though. So after all those years of discarded lead in the landfills, they finally decided that they were an unnecessary risk to young children who might ingest the lead.
Lead foil was a popular material for tinsel manufacture for several decades of the 20th century. Unlike silver, lead tinsel did not tarnish, so it retained its shine. However, use of lead tinsel was phased out after the 1960s due to concern that it exposed children to a risk of lead poisoning. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded in August 1971 that lead tinsel caused an unnecessary risk to children, and convinced manufacturers and importers to voluntarily stop producing or importing lead tinsel after January 1, 1972. The FDA did not actually ban the product because the agency did not have the evidence needed to declare lead tinsel a “health hazard.”Modern tinsel is typically made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) film coated with a metallic finish and sliced into thin strips. Coated mylar film also has been used. These plastic forms of tinsel do not hang as well as tinsel made from heavy metals such as silver and lead.
No kidding, they don’t hang as well. The lead ones make all the difference to the look of my tree, and Shiva doesn’t eat them, so there’s no risk. I think I’ll go put on a few more. You’re supposed to put one on EVERY branch, but just contemplating taking them off of every branch puts a bit of a damper on that idea. Still, I think the extra effort is worth it.
Oh yes, I was going to mention bubble lights….they weren’t really toxic unless you ingested the contents, but they did explode once in a while, which was exciting.
These are still being made in a less toxic way, but I’ve never been able to afford them. However, my son found some tiny ones recently at a warehouse store and they are pretty cute, so I might get those some time. They look so magical.
(still recreating childhood Christmases)