Putting tinsel on the Christmas tree began in Germany as thin strips of beaten silver. Later the present form of tinsel was developed. It was cheaper and lighter than the beaten silver so more people could obtain it and it would not break the trees.
The story is told of a poor woman who was unable to provide decorations for her children's Christmas tree. During the night, spiders lodged in the tree and covered it with their webs. The Christ Child, seeing this, realized that the woman would be saddened to see the disappointed faces of her children upon seeing only spiders' webs on their tree. He turned the spider webs into silver, and the next morning the poor family was dazzled by the brilliant tinsel that shone on the tree.