Christmas Trees


Christmas Trees


Christmas trees are usually evergreen, although people in different parts of the worlds may get creative if no real evergreens exist in their area.  To decorate a Christmas tree has been the tradition for hundreds of years.  Back in the sixteenth century, Livonia and Germany were the first countries to start decorating these large, dark green trees.  Candles were first used, then electric Christmas lights.


Trees are brought inside and then candy, lights, garlands, store-bought ornaments and tinsel, plus many homemade ornaments and even small gifts, are attached to the tree branches.  A star or angel of some type is usually used as a tree topper, as it represents the Star of Bethlehem, from the nativity story.  Some trees can be unusual and a few people love to decorate with one color of tinsel, garlands and ornaments.  Christmas trees can be made from plastic or aluminum and many other substances, such as regular tree branches or even wire.  Trees are symbolic and are often created by the fertile imagination of a child.


The first Christmas tree is rumored to be from St. Boniface, who lived from 672 to 754 AD.  He apparently chopped down a sacred tree in Geismar, Germany, so he replaced it with a handy and close by (one might assume)  fir tree.  Historically, erecting a Christmas tree at the appropriate time was started in Livonia back in the fifteenth century.  This was in the area of present day Latvia and Estonia.  Northern Germany also had the tradition a century after that.  Perhaps someone from the area took the tradition with them when they moved to Germany.


The Brotherhood of Blackheads (nice name, but I’m sure they mean black hair or hoods) put up a holiday tree in their house in Reval (now named Tallinn).  Right before Christmas, they took the tree  to the town square and danced around it.  Perhaps that was the eggnog talking to them.  In the mid-1500s, a pastor wrote about the tradition of young men and women setting up a spruce tree in a market square, singing and dancing around it, then setting it on fire.


Guildhalls also started the tradition of putting up a tree in front of their buildings and this would be like our present day malls, but more understated.  They may have decorated these trees with dates, nuts, paper flowers and pretzels.  Children would eat these (except for the paper flowers I would imagine) on Christmas Day.


Towns had established the tradition of erecting a Christmas tree by the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the upper Rhineland area of Germany.  Roman Catholics regard the tradition as being  a Protestant one.  After a while, the RC church accepted the tradition as it couldn’t prevent people from following the custom.  A general and his wife started the tradition in Canada in 1781 when they held a Christmas party in Sorel. During the first part of the nineteenth century, royalty and nobility spread the custom in Russia and other countries.


Hans Christian Andersen wrote a story titled The Fir-Tree in 1844.  Queen Victoria in England started having a Christmas tree but the tradition hadn’t spread much within the palace at that time.  When Victoria married Prince Albert, the tradition of having a Christmas tree started to spread.  The royal family’s tree was copied and published from a London newspaper in Christmas of 1850, in Godey’s Lady’s Book, in the United States.  German founders of American cities laid claim to the Christmas tree during the mid 1700s.  Lancaster in Pennsylvania, claimed the first Christmas tree erected in America, in 1821.  Others across the country made claim to that as well.


August Imgard, who had emigrated from Germany, decorated his tree with candy canes in 1847.  A star made from tin was placed on the top and he used paper ornaments for additional decoration.  The first candy canes were all white.  During the twentieth century and our millennium, decorating a tree at Christmas became very popular and now we see trees in infinite varieties, made from artificial materials, as well as cut trees from farms and living trees, which can be planted outside after the holidays.


The National Enquirer in Florida (a tabloid) erected the biggest decorated tree that existed at that time, which was during the 70s and 80s.  When the paper’s owner died, the tradition was ended. A Festival of Trees occurs at Christmastime in many cities across the country and the world.  Many trees are decorated then sold to help charity.  Trees are often given by countries to other countries, in commemoration of certain events.  A national Christmas tree is lit on the lawn of the White House each year, and many decorated trees line different rooms inside.


Tiny withered trees are referred to as Charlie Brown trees, after a TV special called A Charlie Brown Christmas.  New Zealand has a tropical tree called a Pohutukawa, and as that Southern hemisphere country celebrates Christmas in December the same as everyone else, it’s their Summer.  This tree has green foliage and red flowers, and is used as a substitute evergreen, much like the Poinsettia often is.  The latter are often placed on tree-shaped platforms and formed into a Christmas tree-like creation.