The Origins of Bunting and Paper Chains

Tuesday, 22 July 2014  |  Admin

 

Bunting refers to a string of paper or material triangles that are strung out as a form of decoration, typically used in the UK for festivities like street parties for grand occasions like the end of World War II, the Queen’s various jubilees, summer parties and Royal weddings. It’s also often been used at political conventions and rallies. 

In recent years, we’ve seen a lot of it, for example at the wedding of Kate and William in 2011 and for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee the following year. Because many of these celebrations take place during the warmer months, it’s the perfect time to decorate outdoors as well as inside. But how did it all begin? 

 

Bunting’s Origins 

 

It seems that the very earliest bunting was made at the start of the seventeenth century, and was connected to the flags used on the ships of the Royal Navy. On a naval vessel, the sailor who had the task of raising the flags on board - the ship’s communications officer - is still known as the “bunt”. 

But the word bunting was originally used to refer to the fabric from which the flags were first made. A single triangular flag would be known as the tammmy, a term which comes from “estamet”, a French expression to describe a light woollen material. 

Another idea is that bunting was originally a “sifting cloth”, from the Middle English “bonten” or to sift. 

Bunting material would be used for ribbons as well as signal flags, and was very suitable for this because of its high glaze, which was achieved through a process which included hot pressing. At the same time, the material holds its colours for a long time and is resistant to the worst effects of dust and direct sunlight, as well as being easy both to store and to care for without being very expensive. It also had a light weight density, which meant flags would easily catch the breeze while still being strong. 

Over the years, bunting has been used at many key historic events. Few photos of D-Day street parties, for example, are complete without endless strings of bunting. 

Of course, today the word bunting is used a lot more generally to describe this ornamentation. While the material doesn’t have to be cloth, it often looks like material. Anything from cardboard to plastic can be used, and one of the most frequently found types is bunting made from coloured plastic triangles. It can come in a variety of shapes and sizes and with patterns or in a plain design. 

You don’t have to wait until the next Jubilee to enjoy it! Bunting is versatile enough that it can be used for just about any social occasion, so drape some outside or inside your home (the porch is one good place for it) next time you have a family celebration. 

 

Paper Chains

 

Of course, flower garlands have been made since Roman times, and tinsel garlands in Germany in about 1610, but another form of decoration, paper chains, were first seen in the UK in the 1850s, when they were used on Christmas trees. This was a time when many of our festive traditions came over to England from Germany in Victorian times. 

Today, you can buy bunting and paper chains in a broad range of styles from Gifts From Handpicked, including the popular “shabby chic” style. These are great for all rooms, and for the garden, to set just the right tone from the minute guests step into your home.

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