“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree!” …Roy L. Smith
By Marion Algier – The War on Christmas verses the Spirit of Christmas Series at AskMarion – 9
Every December we celebrate Christmas and part of this is a Christmas tree. Let’s tackle the history of the Christmas Tree
Many historians and anthropologists agree that the history of Christmas trees begins in post-primeval times, just as agricultural societies were developing across the globe. Christmas did not exist. It was simply, in one culture or another, a pagan celebration of the winter solstice. The winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year which usually occurs on the 22nd or 23rd of December. The boughs of evergreen trees were brought indoors to protect inhabitants from the evil spirits that could cause starvation and illness.
Ancient peoples also scattered evergreen boughs over their floors, doors and around the windows. In fact, the tradition of hanging an evergreen garland comes from the tradition of hanging evergreens over the mantelpiece to keep witches, ghosts and spirits from traveling down the chimney and into the house.
Evergreen boughs were also used to keep away illness. Scents such as pine, juniper and balsam are still used by aromatherapists today to fend off illness and winter depression.
Even the ancient Egyptians were thought to play a role in the history of Christmas trees. Of course there were no evergreen forests in ancient Egypt but during the solstice they filled their homes with palm rushes to protect themselves from evil and celebrate the return of their Sun God Ra.
European and Mediterranean cultures also have episodes in the long saga that is part of the history of Christmas trees. On the solstice, known as Saturnalia, the Romans decorated their homes with evergreen boughs. This honored the God Saturn whose domain was agriculture. Further north, the Celtic Druids used evergreens on the darkest day of the year to symbolize eternal life. These trees were not decorated as we know them today. They were not much more decorative than the famous Charlie brown Christmas tree. This is because the function of these evergreen boughs was more protective than celebratory.
By the 12th century indoor trees were brought inside. Nobody is sure why but originally Christmas trees were hung upside-down from ceilings at Christmastime. This was a popular custom in Central Europe. The upside down tree was seen as both as a symbol of Christianity and a pagan symbol. At that point Christianity was not wide spread and the tree may have been a nod to both pagan and Christian traditions.
It is widely believed that the history of the Christmas tree as we know it began in Germany in the sixteenth century. However few people realize that the tree was not brought inside and that in fact, the first decorated Christmas tree was a pyramid made of wood. These German indoor pyramids were decorated with boughs and candles. Often jars of pickles were set on the steps. The pyramid shape was not a direct inspiration from ancient Egypt but rather, the triangular shape was thought to represent the three points of the Holy Trinity – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The next big development in the history of Christmas trees was tinsel. Tinsel was invented in Germany around 1610. At that time, tinsel was made of real silver and it tarnished easily thanks to the smoke from the Christmas tree candles. Silver was used for tinsel right up to the mid-20th century when it was replaced by aluminum.
The history of Christmas trees was non-existent in America until about the 1840s. They were sometimes displayed as curios in traveling sideshows. The Christmas tree decorating ritual was considered sacrilegious for most of the 17th and 18th century. It was seen as a mockery of the sober celebration of the birth of Christ. In fact in 1659, people were fined for hanging decorations. This law continued until the 19th century when the tradition was brought more into common practice by German and Irish immigrants to the United States. The practice was also made more acceptable when Queen Victoria decided to make a right side up floor-to-ceiling Xmas tree part of her décor in 1846.
One difference between European customs and American customs seemed to be that Europeans were more inclined to decorate their trees with food, cookies and candies (and even pickles!) whereas Americans were more into glitzy decorations. Also the European Christmas trees tended to be shorter (three to four feet in height) while the Americans preferred their trees to be sky-high. Both cultures however enjoyed decorating their trees with garlands of popcorns and electric lights.
In the 1950s America saw the advent of the first artificial Christmas trees. This event was celebrated by Charles M. Schulz famous fable about the Charlie brown Christmas tree. In this fable Charlie Brown is told by Linus, Lucy and Shroeder to go out and find the biggest flashiest aluminum tree to use as a decoration for their Christmas play. Instead Brown falls in love with the most pathetic tree ever and finds the true meaning of Christmas. You can buy a replica of this type of tree which is often called the “pathetic Charlie brown Christmas tree” online. True to the original cartoon, the tree boasts just one red Christmas ball ornament on a single bare limb.
The argument about which is better – a fake Christmas tree or a real Christmas tree still rages on today. The most recent development in the history of Christmas trees is the return of the upside down Christmas tree, which is disapproved by the church just as it was in the sixteenth century. If history keeps repeating itself the next trend we will see in Christmas trees is the ancient wooden pyramids that served as artificial trees in pagan times.
Christmas Trees ‘Round the World
The Capitol Christmas tree in Washington, D.C., is decorated with 3,000 ornaments that are the handiwork of U.S. schoolchildren. Encircling evergreens in the ‘Pathway of Peace’ represent the 50 U.S. states.
The world’s largest Christmas tree display rises up the slopes of Monte Ingino outside of Gubbio, in Italy’s Umbria region. Composed of about 500 lights connected by 40,000 feet of wire, the ‘tree’ is a modern marvel for an ancient city
A Christmas tree befitting Tokyo’s nighttime neon display is projected onto the exterior of the Grand Prince Hotel Akasaka.
Illuminating the Gothic facades of Prague’s Old Town Square, and casting its glow over the manger display of the famous Christmas market, is a grand tree cut in the Sumava mountains in the southern Czech Republic.
Venice ‘s Murano Island renowned throughout the world for its quality glasswork is home to the tallest glass tree in the world. Sculpted by master glass blower Simone Cenedese, the artistic Christmas tree is a modern reflection of the holiday season.
Moscow celebrates Christmas according to the Russian Orthodox calendar on Jan. 7. For weeks beforehand, the city is alive with festivities in anticipation of Father Frost’s arrival on his magical troika with the Snow Maiden. He and his helper deliver gifts under the New Year tree, or yolka, which is traditionally a fir.
The largest Christmas tree in Europe (more than 230 feet tall) can be found in the Praco Comarcio in Lisbon, Portugal. Thousands of lights adorn the tree, adding to the special enchantment of the city during the holiday season.
‘Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree’: Even in its humblest attire, aglow beside a tiny chapel in Germany’s Karwendel mountains, a Christmas tree is a wondrous sight.
Ooh la la Galeries Lafayette! In Paris, even the Christmas trees are chic. With its monumental, baroque dome, plus 10 stories of lights and high fashion, it’s no surprise this show-stopping department store draws more visitors than the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower
In addition to the Vatican’s heavenly evergreen, St. Peter’s Square in Rome hosts a larger-than-life nativity scene in front of the obelisk.
The Christmas tree that greets revelers at the Puerta del Sol is dressed for a party. Madrid’s two-week celebration makes millionaires along with merrymakers. On Dec. 22, a lucky citizen will win El Gordo (the fat one), the world’s biggest lottery.
A token of gratitude for Britain’s aid during World War II, the Christmas tree in London’s Trafalgar Square has been the annual gift of the people of Norway since 1947.
Drink a glass of gluhwein from the holiday market at the Romer Frankfurt’s city hall since 1405 and enjoy a taste of Christmas past.
Against a backdrop of tall, shadowy firs, a rainbow trio of Christmas trees lights up the night (location unknown).
Photo Credit: Andy Holzman/Daily News Staff Photographer
(Blaze) Residents at The Willows, a senior adult apartment complex in Newhall, California, are outraged after management banned the presence of Christmas trees and menorahs from communal areas within the building.
A memorandum was issued to residents by B Partners Group, demanding that the Christmas tree already present in one of the shared spaces be removed, as it is considered a religious symbol. Rather than backing down and complying, two dozen residents responded with a protest rally (featuring coffee and doughnuts). The group placed a sign on the tree that reads, “Please Save Our Tree.”
“We’re all angry. We want that tree,” Fern Sheel, a resident at The Willows, told the Los Angeles Daily News. “Where’s our freedom? This is ridiculous.”
“We could put out Easter baskets, have turkey for Thanksgiving but no tree for Christmas because it has Christ’s name in the beginning of Christmas,” added Edna Johnson, another outraged resident.
Another resident, Max Green is, is so frustrated that he’s considering witholding his rent.
“I’ve got grandkids and they come here and now they’ll ask, ‘Grandpa, where’s the Christmas tree?,’” he told the Daily News. “Then I’ll have to explain that someone said we couldn’t have one. What kind of message is that sending to the kids?”
This is the first time that the company, which has owned the building for four years, has issued such a directive. So far, B Partners Group has not responded to the furor.
(H/T: Todd Starns’ Fox News)
‘Wicked’: Farrakhan decries Santa and the Christmas tree
Additional War on Christmas Rages… stories from the Blaze:
- Christians find live nativity "loophole" following atheist-led ban
- Church cancels Charlie Brown Christmas show after atheist angst
- Jon Stewart: There’s no War on Christmas
- TX teacher: Santa is fake
- Atheists push mock pasta-decorated Christmas tree
- How should Christians respond to the War on Christmas?
The War on Christmas verses the Spirit of Christmas Series at AskMarion – with comments from Ben Stein