Followers

Monday, December 19, 2011

Oh Christmas Tree

     The history of the Christmas tree actually begins before there was even a Christmas. Prior to the dawn of Christianity, many people in the northern hemisphere believed that winter occurred because the sun god was ill and was growing weak. They celebrated the Winter solstice on December 21st and 22nd because these were the shortest days of the year and at long last the god would begin to recover and warm the lands. The evergreens would remind them of all the lush green plants that would grow when the god was healthy again. These early people would bring in boughs of evergreen to decorate their doorways and windows, some believed that it would help keep witches, evil spirits, and illness away during these dark and cold months. They were not the only early people to find evergreen plants to have special meaning and power.


     Many cultures, from the Egyptians to the Vikings, associated the evergreens in their area with a sun god and would bring a evergreen in to signify the end of winter and the upcoming bountiful season. Often evergreens were thought to signify resurrection and the triumph of life over death.
 
     It was in Germany, around the 16th century, that we find reference to the first Christian practice of bringing inside the evergreens as a celebration of Christmas. More than likely it represented to the Christians a similar message of rebirth and resurrection as it did for earlier pagan people. Because of this connection with paganism it was not accepted into Puritan America until around the mid 18th century. I am personally glad that I missed those solemn and Stoic days of the Puritan society. I can't imagine having been penalized for being happy and celebrating Christ's birth.
This wonderful vintage paper tray depicting a traditional German celebration was found in ETSY shop A Vintage Smattering at
http://www.etsy.com/shop/aVintageSmattering?ref=seller_info
     It wasn't until a picture of the very popular Queen Victoria and Prince Albert sitting aside a Christmas tree with their children to make the evergreen the symbol of Christmas as we know it today. Once this infamous couple deemed it fashionable it mainstreamed and America embraced it, importing German ornaments by the end of the 19th century. It is amazing to see how things have changed in a few short centuries. Many of us wouldn't know what it would be like not to have a Christmas tree in their home or yard beaming light through the long dark winter nights. The lighting of Christmas trees in homes, court yards and squares signifies the start of festivities and celebrations nation wide. What a dreary month December would be without our beloved Christmas tree.

No comments: