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Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Little Christmas Tree History





A Little Christmas Tree History
 
 





 Legend has it that during the seventh century a monk (later known as St. Boniface) traveled to Germany to teach Christianity. While there, he utilized a fir tree to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity. Once converted, the German people began to revere the fir tree as God's tree. By the twelfth century, as Christianity spread, the people in Central Europe hung trees upside down as a symbol of their religious beliefs.

 
The first recorded instance of a decorated tree was in Latvia around the year 1510. Martin Luther had also decorated a Christmas tree for his children around 1525.

 
By the mid-sixteenth century, citizens in many German towns sold Christmas trees in fairs. In 1610, merchants pulled silver through special machines to form wafer thin strips for tinsel to decorate Christmas trees.

 
In the seventeenth century, the Georgian Kings, who came from Germany, were the first to introduce the Christmas tree to England, but since the British public was not fond of the German Monarchy, the tradition did not catch on very quickly. That changed rapidly, however, by 1846, when the popular Queen Victoria and German Prince Albert assumed the British throne. The Christmas tree immediately became fashionable.

In the mid-nineteenth century, whatever was popular in Britain soon spread to American society. Homemade decorations became a little fancier, and homeowners placed toys under the trees. Around 1880, FW Woolworth sold Christmas trees in nationwide stores, and the tradition took off. Shortly thereafter, inventors filed American patents for electric lights and metal hooks for safer hanging of decorations onto the trees. Unfortunately, with High Victorian British society as a model, people believed the larger the tree, the more affluent the family and Christmas trees became a status symbol. However, tales by Charles Dickens revived the Christmas tree as a religious symbol by the 1930s.

 
By the mid-1960s, the USA manufactured aluminum trees, and the tradition continues to evolve today with the advent of theme trees for the holiday season.

 
To me, regardless of varying traditions, Christmas trees continue to play an important role during the Christmas season - They make children happy!



Photo © Tony Northrup 2010
http://www.northrup.org/photos/christmas-tree/

6 comments:

  1. Interesting! Two questions. How does a fir tree relate to the trinity? And why hang a tree upside down?

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  2. I actually had to read St. Boniface's writings for my medieval civilization class. I don't remember him specifically stating anything about trees in it, but this is fascinating stuff. Since I have so much interest in history and the origins of things, this stuff is too cool.

    Thanks for sharing.

    AubrieAnne @ http://whosyoureditor.blogspot.com/

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  3. GP: My understanding is that upside down it looked like a triangle.

    AA: I don't know much about him, except that he traveled to Germany to spread Christianity. I guess it makes sense that he would use some props, and the Christmas tree is as good as any.

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  4. How interesting! My kids were certainly made happy by our 5 year old fake tree (it's the hanging of candy canes on the branches that really does the trick :) Did you enjoy your 15 courses of Italian food this Christmas? Miriam@Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters

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  5. Thanks for the lesson. We were just wondering about how in the world people decided to haul a tree into the house and put sparkly things on it! As always, right on cue, there you are with knowledge to spare. Hope your Christmas was wonderful!

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  6. Miriam: I'm not sure. I am so stuffed that I might not eat until next Christmas!

    'Yellow Rose' Jasmine: My understanding is that the idea came from a tree farm in the Catskill Mountains in New York. Apparently, the owner decided to farm trees for sale to the general public for use indoors. I have not verified the information, but I think it is correct.

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