The Christmas Tree

Each year, just around the time that we start getting ready to pick out a turkey to cook for Thanksgiving, we start decorating the house for Christmas. One tradition that is always practiced in our home is that of putting up the Christmas Tree... But why do we do this? Here is some of the origins of one of the most known Christmas traditions of putting up the Christmas Tree. 

The Christmas tree tradition most likely has its origins in pagan times, when evergreens were symbolic of new life and hope for the coming year. 

The fir tree, however, also has a place in early Chritianity. Saint Boniface was born in England in 675 and dedicated his life to converting the pagans. In 719, he was sent to Germany by Pope Gregory II to continue his missionary work. It is said that at Geismar he came across a group of pecans worshipping an oak tree, which was associated with the god Thor, and he cut it down in a fit of anger. In its place sprung a fir tree, and Boniface declared that this was to be the new Christian symbol. 

But it was not until much later that the Christmas tree as we know it came to be. A plaque in the town square in Riga, Latvia, declares that the first "New Year's tree" was to be found there in 1510. At around the same time, it is said that the German theologian Martin Luther was walking in an evergreen forest at night and was so struck by the beauty of the star shining through the branches that he brought a tree home and decorated it with candles. 

The first record of a decorated fir tree associated with Christmas time comes from Bremen, Germany, in 1570, where a fir tree was brought into the guildhall and decorated with fruit and nuts, which were then given to the local children on Christmas Day. 

Many people believe that it was Queen Victoria's consort, Prince Albert, who introduced the Christmas tree tradition, already widespread in his native Germany, to Britain. However, records dating from 1800 show that the queen's grandmother, Charlotte, also a German, brought the custom to King George III's court. In 1889, the tradition of having a Christmas tree in the White House began during the presidency of Benjamin Harrison. The tradition has since grown in popularity and has come to reflect the times and tastes of the First Family. 

Many people throughout the world have their own individualized traditions when it comes to their Christmas trees. Some set the tree up before Thanksgiving, some do not put the tree up until Christmas Eve, and some put the tree up and never take it down.