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The 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 Christmas trees.

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 celebrations.

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 the world, using exclusively American labor. prides itself in being the exclusive online vendor of these premium quality artificial trees.  We believe no other tree produced anywhere in the world can match the realism, quality, and convenience of Holiday's creations.  They are the ultimate expressions of a tradition reaching back into pre-history, brought to perfection today.


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