“O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree, how thy leaves so verdant!” Nothing says Christmas like a Christmas tree, all decked out for the holidays with lights, ribbons, ornaments, candy canes, and a star or angel on the very top.
SYNONYMOUS WITH CHRISTMAS
The Christmas tree is a staple, symbol, and icon of the Christmas tradition. It lights up every home, sometimes seen in all its splendor from windows of houses. It’s hard to imagine Christmas without this beautiful greenery.
HISTORICAL ROOTS AND ORIGINS
From the earliest winter solstice celebrations, to Queen Victoria, to the yearly lighting of the grand tree at Rockefeller Center, the Christmas tree has been at the heart of the holidays and remains a treasured tree. In ancient times, people used greenery, like pine, spruce, and fir above their doors and windows, not just for decoration’s sake, but to ward off evil and harm, including spirits and illnesses. The winter solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year, falls on December 21st. Some believed the sun was a god who got sick and weak in the winter. In celebrating the solstice, the evergreen boughs were a reminder that spring and summer would eventually return, and the sun god would become well again.
FIRST CHRISTMAS TREES
Germany has the credit of celebrating with the first official Christmas trees, when 16th-century devout Christians brought the trees into their households. Protestant reformer, Martin Luther, is thought to have first graced the tree with lighted candles. According to tradition, in 1536, Luther was inspired to compose a sermon by twinkling candlelight on the fir tree, like heavenly stars all aglow.
Although Prince Albert is often credited with bringing the first Christmas tree to Windsor Castle, it was actually Queen Charlotte, a German princess who had married King George III in 1761, who first decorated yew boughs with wax tapers. When, in 1800, Queen Charlotte held a magnificent, festive Christmas party; she replaced her favorite yew boughs of earlier years with the first full-grown potted Christmas tree, decorated with toys, fruits, nuts, candies, and lighted candles.
In 1848, Prince Albert brought his love of German Christmas traditions to Windsor Palace when he decorated a magnificent Christmas tree for his growing family. A sketch of this celebration appeared in the Illustrated London News, depicting Queen Victoria with Prince Albert and their many children round the famous tree. Among the British royals, the Christmas tree rose in popularity, and, in 1850, Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Tree, in which he celebrated the tree, calling it “a pretty German toy.”
GETTING FESTIVE WITH DECORATIONS
Before electricity in the early 20th century, Americans decorated their trees with handmade ornaments, like strands of popcorn colorfully dyed and intermingled with nuts and berries. Other festive decorations with a hand-made touch included paper flowers, tinsel, apples, candy canes, chocolate, gingersnaps, and other sweet treats. Trees were often crowned at the top with a star or angel.
With the invention of electricity, lights became synonymous with the Christmas tree tradition and added to the ambiance of the holiday celebration. With 25,000 lights, the stately Rockefeller Center tree is a magnificent display every year in New York City, attracting onlookers from around the world. The first tree at Rockefeller Center became an attraction in 1931.
TREES NEAR ME
Where are Christmas trees grown? You don’t have to look or travel too far. . . . You can find Christmas trees in almost all 50 states in the United States of America, with the exception of Alaska and Hawaii.
Google or ask Siri to search for “Christmas trees near me” and find a local place to pick up your treasure of a tree. Or, head to your local tree farm with a to-go cup of hot chocolate or apple cider in hand and pick out your “fav” tree. Haul it home, put your tree in a stand with water and decorate up a storm as you sing along with Christmas music that sets your spirits soaring.
After all, ’tis the season to be jolly! May your Christmas and holiday season be a beautiful and bright one—and very merry!