December 23, 2013 Lydia Gable

The History of the Christmas Tree

Long before the early days of Christianity, trees and plants that stayed green throughout the seasons, had a special meaning for people in the winter time. Believe it or not, the history of the Christmas tree traces back to the earliest winter solstice celebrations, to Queen Victoria and finally evolves to our modern day tree celebration. Did you ever wonder how the tradition of having a Christmas tree in the living room as a celebration of the holiday, evolved into the practice as we know it today?

Weirdly enough, the history of Christmas trees does not date back to Christmas—at least not initially— quite the opposite. According to History.com, the decorating of the tree has its early roots in ritual and warding off of witches and ghosts and not the birth Christ:

Just as people today decorate their homes during the festive season with pine, spruce, and fir trees, ancient peoples hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows. In many countries it was believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness.

The Winter Solstice Celebration

In an article on History.com titled, History of Christmas Trees, the author explains that because the shortest day and longest night of the year falls on December 21 or December 22, the winter solstice became a sacred time for ritual. Ancient people, many of them relying on agriculture and crops, revered the sun as a god and rationalized that winter came when “the sun god had become sick and weak”. They celebrated the solstice because it signified a time when the sun god would find strength once more. They chose evergreen boughs because these remain green all year and served as a reminder that green would soon return. All trees and plants would soon grow again when the sun god was once more possessing of optimal strength. Summer would be upon them soon.

Queen Victoria Makes the Christmas Tree Trendy

But where did our current version of the Christmas tree come from? Does the song “O Tannenbaum” ring any bells? The Christmas tree as we know it is a German tradition of course. It dates back to the 16th century when devout Christians supposedly first brought decorated trees into their homes — also believed to be the time when the first candles were put on the tree byMartin Luther, the famous Protestant reformer, monk and teacher. But the first real record of Christmas tree displays in America dates back to the 19th century after the tradition was brought over by German settlers to Pennsylvania. However it didn’t catch on right away. For most Americans, it was still viewed as an odd practice and even in some cases viewed as a Pagan ritual. According to History.com as reported by the Jamestown Comet, it wasn’t until the late 19th century when Queen Victoria was seen posing in front of a tree, that it soon became a trend in America by way of Europe.

In 1846, the popular royals, Queen Victoria and her German Prince, Albert, were sketched in the Illustrated London News standing with their children around a Christmas tree …Victoria was very popular with her subjects, and what was done at court immediately became fashionable—not only in Britain, but with fashion-conscious East Coast American Society.

The Joy of a Home

Do you remember the first home you bought and how proud you were to put up that poor little Charlie Brown tree in the living room? This year when you put up your tree whether it is in a new home or the same home you have lived in for the last thirty years, take a moment to appreciate the tradition and sentiment behind the tree. And whether you celebrate the religious aspects of the holiday or not, remember as you sit around the family tree, that it’s not only about presents and what you get, but also about enjoying your family and appreciating the warmth a beautiful home filled with joy.

Blessings go out to all of my friends and clients, from Lydia Gable Realty Group, as we take time out from our busy schedules to celebrate the joy of this beautiful Christmas season.

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