“Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree. Why do we have a Christmas tree?”. Christmas trees are always put up during Christmas as a tradition. they are decorated with lights and ornaments and have presents at the bottom. But why is having a Fir tree in our home a tradition?
Here, we will look at why the Christmas tree has become an icon of Christmas.
The Fir tree
Nobody is really sure when Fir trees were first used as Christmas trees. It probably began about 1000 years ago in Northern Europe. Many early Christmas Trees seem to have been hung upside down from the ceiling using chains (hung from chandeliers/lighting hooks).
Other early Christmas trees were either cherry or hawthorn plants. These were put into pots and brought inside to hopefully bloom during Christmas time. If people couldn’t afford said plants, they would make a pyramid out of wood and decorate it with paper, apples, and candles.
The first documented use of a tree at Christmas and New Year celebrations is in town square of Riga, the capital of Latvia, in the year 1510. In the square there is a plaque which is engraved with “The First New Year’s Tree in Riga in 1510”, in eight languages. The tree might have been a ‘Paradise Tree’ rather than a ‘real’ tree. Not much is known about the tree, apart from that it was attended by men wearing black hats, and that after a ceremony they burnt the tree. This is like the custom of the Yule Log.
The first first person to bring a Christmas Tree into a house, in the way we know it today, may have been the 16th century German preacher Martin Luther. A story is told that, one night before Christmas, he was walking through the forest and looked up to see the stars shining through the tree branches. It was so beautiful, that he went home and told his children that it reminded him of Jesus, who left the stars of heaven to come to earth at Christmas. Some people say this is the same tree as the ‘Riga’ tree, but it isn’t! The Riga tree originally took place a few decades earlier. Northern Germany and Latvia are neighbors.
The first trees
The first Christmas Trees came to Britain sometime in the 1830’s. They became very popular in 1841, when Prince Albert (Queen Victoria’s German husband) had a Christmas Tree set up in Windsor Castle. In 1848, drawing of “The Queen’s Christmas tree at Windsor Castle” was published in the Illustrated London News. The drawing was republished in Godey’s Lady’s Book, Philadelphia in December 1850 (but they removed the Queen’s crown and Prince Albert’s mustache to make it look ‘American’!).
Artificial Christmas Trees really started becoming popular in the early 20th century. In the Edwardian period Christmas Trees made from colored ostrich feathers were popular at ‘fashionable’ parties. Around 1900 there was even a short fashion for white trees – so if you thought colored trees are a new invention, they’re not! Over the years artificial tress have been made from feathers, paper mâché, metal, glass, and many different types of plastic.
Eventually, people began to love and decorate these Fir trees. These trees soon became an icon of Christmas with massive Christmas trees being put up every year. Know we know why.
Hope you enjoyed this blog! Happy Holidays!