festivals and traditions

The branches of Christmas

In a few days it will be Christmas time, guys! Don’t you feel a particular atmosphere in the air? Have you decorated your Christmas tree yet?

The Christmas tree is one of the most common Christmas symbols; it’s usually an evergreen tree, real or artificial, decorated with lights (which were originally candles), ornaments, tinsel, garlands and an angel or a star is usually put on top of the tree. But when was this tradition born?
According to one tradition, Martin Luther created a small Christmas tree with candles, to show to his children how the stars sparkle in the night. According to another tradition, the Christmas tree was born in Latvia, as part of a pagan celebration for the winter solstice, known as Yule. It represented the Sun God and it was observed on the shortest day of the year (the Winter Solstice). In this ceremony, people lit candles to encourage the sun to reappear the following year, in fact the days got longer and warmer after Yule. People used to bring live evergreen trees into their homes to remember that their crops would soon grow again. Moreover, they held their rites around a huge tree and gathered around a bonfire. According to a legend, the first tree in Riga, Latvia’s capital, was decorated with paper flowers and burnt after the ceremony.
In England, this tradition was introduced by the German merchants who lived there and by the Georgian Kings of the Hanoverian dynasty, who came from Germany. These trees were decorated with tinsel, candles and small beads. The custom was to make a small Christmas tree for each member of the family and under the tree there were the gifts. Nevertheless, the custom of decorating a Christmas tree became very popular after a picture of Queen Victoria and her husband was published on the London News: they were portrayed around a Christmas tree with their family. At that time decorations were usually “home-made”, because young girls would sew snowflakes, stars and pouches as gifts. Other decorations, like beads, silver tinsel and angels, were imported from Germany.
This custom reached America thanks to mercenary soldiers during the American Civil War and Franklin Pierce (1804-1869) was the first American president to have a Christmas tree.

Originally only real trees were used, then German industries produced the first artificial firs to protect the forests and this idea was soon imitated by American industries.

There are a lot of legends about the “birth” of the Christmas tree, too.
According to a tale, in 1611 the German duchess of Brieg was preparing a big feast to celebrate Christmas and she decided to fill an empty corner of the living room with a fir that she had noticed while she was walking in a park. So she ordered her servants to bring the tree to her castle and she decorated it with paper, fruit and sweets.

Another legend tells that a woodcutter saw the stars sparkling through the branches of a pine covered with snow and ice. So he cut a little pine and decorated it with white ribbons and small candles to explain to his wife what he had seen. Everybody was so surprised that from then on  Christmas trees started to be decorated.

Nowadays, I think that a lot of people have a lot of fun while decorating their Christmas tree in an original way.

For example last year I used Coca-Cola tins instead of usual Christmas balls!
How have you decorated your Christmas tree this year? Do you like changing decorations every year?

4 thoughts on “The branches of Christmas

  1. A really interesting post Sara:) In my family it’s very important for us to prepare our Christmas tree because it’s also an occasion to stay all together! We are used to doing this on 8th December and changing decorations every year, putting together whatever we have at home: ribbons, decorative balls, but also objects such as little stars i make with coloured paper some weeks before; two years ago, for example, we decorated our tree with angels made up using pasta coloured with a golden spray! 🙂

  2. I am used to decorating it on 22th November, according to a tradition typical of my native town, Taranto. The idea of using coloured pasta is really nice..it could be an excellent one for the next year!

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