The Christmas Tree

Painting by Viggo Johansen (1891)

A Christmas tree is a decorated tree, ideally an evergreen conifer such as pine or fir, traditionally associated with the celebration of Christmas. An artificial Christmas tree is an object made to resemble such a tree, usually made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

The tree was traditionally decorated with edibles such as nuts or dates. In the 18th century, it began to be illuminated by [candle]s, which with electrification could also be replaced by Christmas lights (decoration).Christmas lights. Today, there are a wide variety of traditional ornaments, such as garland, tinsel, and candy canes. An angel or star may be placed at the top of the tree, to represent the host of angels or the Star of Bethlehem from the Nativity.

The custom of the Christmas tree developed in early modern Germany with predecessors that can be traced to the 16th and possibly the 15th century, in which “devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes.” It acquired popularity beyond Germany during the second half of the 19th century.[2] The Christmas tree has also been known as the “Yule-tree”, especially in discussions of its folkloristic origins.

The Christmas Tree is one of the greater traditions associated with Christmas.  I know that for me, the day after Thanksgiving is the day we put up our tree. In recent years we have downsized from a large tree to a small 4 foot tree, but the ritual remains the same for the most part. We listen to Christmas music and we take decorations out of the boxes and decorate the tree. Pat of it is reliving memories because the ornaments are the ones we have used and added to since me and my siblings were children. We have ornaments that we made as children at school or in Church, we have ones we made as gifts or received as a gift. Its a tradition we love at my house. With each passing year, it helps us to remember the good times and mourn the losses of the year before. Since my father has passed, its been hard, but we remain cheery and celebrate with the living memories!

The traditions of the tree began long ago, but the tree we know and love had traditions that come before Christmas it’s self.

Possible predecessors

While it is clear that the modern Christmas tree originates in Renaissance and early modern Germany, there are a number of speculative theories as to its ultimate origin. Its 16th-century origins are sometimes associated with Protestant Christian reformer Martin Luther, who, according to The History Channel, “first added lighted candles to a tree.”

It is frequently traced to the symbolism of evergreen trees in pre-Christian winter rites, especially with the story of the Donar Oak and Saint Boniface.[8]

According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, “The use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands to symbolize eternal life was a custom of the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmastime.”

Alternatively, it is identified with the “tree of paradise” of medieval mystery plays that were given on 24 December, the commemoration and name day of Adam and Eve in various countries. In such plays, a tree decorated with apples (to represent the forbidden fruit) and wafers (to represent the Eucharist and redemption) was used as a setting for the play. Like the Christmas crib, the Paradise tree was later placed in homes. The apples were replaced by round objects such as shiny red balls.

Early evidence

Customs of erecting decorated trees in wintertime can be traced to Christmas celebrations in Renaissance-era guilds in Northern Germany and Livonia.

The first evidence of decorated trees associated with Christmas Day are trees in guild halls decorated with sweets to be enjoyed by the apprentices and children. In Livonia (present-day Latvia and Estonia), in 1441, 1442, 1510 and 1514, the Brotherhood of Blackheads erected a tree for the holidays in their guild houses in Reval (now Tallinn) and Riga. On the last night of the celebrations leading up to the holidays, the tree was taken to the Town Hall Square where the members of the brotherhood danced around it.[10] A Bremen guild chronicle of 1570 reports that a small tree decorated with “apples, nuts, dates, pretzels and paper flowers” was erected in the guild-house for the benefit of the guild members’ children, who collected the dainties on Christmas Day.[2] In 1584, the pastor and chronicler Balthasar Russow in his Chronica der Provinz Lyfflandt (1584) wrote of an established tradition of setting up a decorated spruce at the market square where the young men “went with a flock of maidens and women, first sang and danced there and then set the tree aflame”.

After the Reformation, such trees are seen in the houses of upper-class Protestant families as a counterpart to the Catholic Christmas cribs. This transition from the guild hall to the bourgeois family homes in the Protestant parts of Germany ultimately gives rise to the modern tradition as it developed in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Christmas Trees have a VERY long history. Wikipedia has far more information that I feel is too long to post here.

For your Pleasure we have some Christmas Trees.

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2 thoughts on “The Christmas Tree”

  1. During Roman times the Evergreen tree was dedicated to Mithras. Mithras worshipers celebrated his day on Dec. 25. and often brought a tree into their homes for good luck and as a symbol of rebirth. To this day it is a tradition among builders to put a small evergreen at the top of every sky scraper under construction as a symbol of good luck. I suppose the “Partridge in a Pear tree” lyric in the 12 days of Christmas refers tot he act o bringing a gift of a a living tree that can be replanted in the spring. Decorated evergreen boughs and wreaths have been prevalent through out the Celtic times. The Angles and Saxons of course were Celts as were most of the people of Europe who all worshiped the Evergreen and the Oak as well as mistletoe as bringers of good tidings. Merry Yuletide! Good post!

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