It has to be said, I love a good Christmas Tree. It brings a joy to my heart with the anticipation of Christmas and the start of a new, better year beyond.
I was a little hazy on the origins of the Christmas tree however. It’s a northern Europe tradition, said my brother, and so it seems. The evergreen fir tree has traditionally been used to celebrate winter festivals (pagan and Christian) for thousands of years. Pagans used branches of it to decorate their homes during the winter solstice, as it made them think of the spring to come.
The Romans used fir trees to decorate their temples at the festival of Saturnalia. St Boniface apparently used the triangular shape of a fir tree to explain the Holy Trinity when he travelled to Germany to preach the word of God. By the 12th century, albeit hung upside down from a chandelier, the fir tree seems to have been used as a symbol of Christianity.
From this early start however, there seems to be a bit of a lull in proceedings until what is acknowledged as the first world’s decorated tree was unveiled in Riga, Latvia in 1510. German Christmas markets started selling decorations from the mid-sixteenth century and the tradition was imported into the UK by one or other of the George’s – I believe, the wife of George III.
It wasn’t until Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were featured standing around their Christmas Tree with their family by the Illustrated London News however that the Christmas Tree enjoyed mass popularity here in Britain. That enthusiasm spread swiftly across the Atlantic to America’s East Coast and the rest, as they say, is history.
The popularity of the Christmas Tree has waxed and waned but whenever there’s a need for reassurance in this crazy world of ours, the more classic Victorian fir tree becomes nostalgically popular again. Long may the Christmas Tree reign – whatever your style – funky, contemporary, classic, flamboyant or edible!
With best wishes for the festive season.
Contributor & Photographer: Sue Lowry
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