Tradition of the Christmas Tree
Decorated trees are known from pre-Christian times. They occur in
connection with the worship of various gods, usually as symbols of
life. Evergreens especially seem to always have been part of Winter
solstice celebrations. Their ability to remain green during the
winter made them natural choices to represent the enduring power of
life. The ancient Romans employed their boughs them extensively in
their Saturnalia celebration, held in late December. During this
festival, the Romans engaged in feasting, song singing, and the giving
of gifts. The gifts where often decorated with evergreen boughs, and
the boughs were also strung up around Roman homes during the season.
The fir tree was also extremely important to the ancient Germanic
tribes, and was an important symbol of their celebration of Yule. The
Norse people burned evergreens, to encourage the return of the Sun on
the darkest nights of the year.
It was the policy of the early church not to force converted people to
give up all their folk customs, but rather to convert those customs to
Christian use. It was reasoned that if a person could be baptized,
and made Christian, so could days and traditions. Therefore, if
people used to decorate trees to honor their gods of lights and life,
they could still do so to honor Christ instead.
Christian tradition credits Saint Boniface with popularizing the fir
tree as a Christmas symbol. According to legend, Saint Boniface cut
down a sacred oak in Germany, and a fir tree sprang up its place. The
triangular shape of the tree was considered symbolic of the Trinity,
and its evergreen foliage was considered emblematic of the eternal
life that believers could look forward to.
Another story claims that Martin Luther was the first to decorate a
fir tree for Christmas, adding candles to represent the stars in the
night. A third story states that the first Christmas tree was erected
in Riga, Latvia, in 1510. Like the Saint Boniface legend, these
stories cannot be proven. It is certain, however, that in the Middle
Ages evergreen trees where decorated with apples, to represent the
Tree of Life in the Mystery plays held during the Advent season.
Perhaps this example, combined with the previous Pagan use of the tree
in winter rites, combined to form the custom of the Christmas tree.
Contemporary sources prove that by the 17th century, German families
where decorating Christmas trees with decoration bought at Christmas
fairs. Originally, Christmas trees seem to have been hung upside-down
from the roof, but eventually they where displayed right side up and
decorated in ways that we would recognize today.
Christmas trees were popularized in England in Victorian times. Queen
Victoria's family was not English in origin, but German. Therefore,
her family brought with them the array of German Christmas traditions,
including the Christmas tree. It was fashionable at the time to do
whatever the royal family did, so the English started erecting
German immigrants had first brought the Christmas tree in the 18th
century. The first Christmas trees in America were erected in
colonial Pennsylvania. Other German immigrant in other parts of the
country also set up Christmas trees during the 19th century, but the
custom did not spread to the whole country until the Victorian era.
At that time middle and upper class Americans where very imitative of
the British, so when people in England began setting up Christmas
trees, many people in America did so also. The immigrant communities
that entered the country afterwards where often eager to fir in to
American society, so they put up Christmas trees too, even if it
wasn't originally part of their ethnic heritage. Thus, the Christmas
tree was solidified as an essential part of American Christmas
Artificial trees were first made in Germany in the 1880s. They were
designed to ease the burden on native forests that were being denuded
of trees in an attempt to meet the demand for Christmas trees. These
original trees where made of goose feathers, but American
manufacturers eventually created sturdier brush trees. The 1960s saw
a vogue for silver trees, lit by color wheels, but the main trend has
been towards ever increasing realism.
Holiday Tree & Trim Co. began producing trees in 1948. Since that
time the company has been dedicated to producing the finest trees in
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