9.12.06

WHY DO WE HAVE A CHRISTMAS TREE ?

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Pookie loves to hide and meditate behind the Christmas tree ! (Before she lifts a paw to play with these nice red balls)

Many people all over the world have a Christmas tree and decorate it with love and phantasy. And why ? Nobody really cares about it, because it had always existed.

But this is not quite true. The origin of a decorated tree came probably from Germanic tribes who decorated an "evergreen" tree with food to be thankful for a good year. The Romans did it too, the first trace of such a tree was found in a mosaic picture in Tunesia.

The modern custom cannot be pro ved to be directly descended from pagan tradition. It can, however, be traced to 16th century Germany. As the earliest reference a Bremen guild chronicle of 1570 reports how a small fir was decorated with apples, nuts, dates, pretzels and paper flowers, and erected in the guild-house, for the benefit of the guild members' children, who collected the dainties on Christmas day. Another early reference is from Basel (Switzerland), where the tailor apprentices carried around town a tree decorated with apples and cheese in 1597.

By the early 18th century, the custom had become common in towns of the upper Rhineland, but it had not yet spread to rural areas. Wax candles are attested from the late 18th century. The Christmas tree remained confined to the upper Rhineland for a relatively long time. It was regarded as a Protestant custom by the Catholic majority along the lower Rhine and was spread there only by Prussian officials who were moved there in the wake of the Congress of Vienna in 1815.

In the early 19th century, the custom became popular among the nobility and spread to royal courts as far as Russia. In France, the first Christmas tree was introduced only in 1840.

In Britain, the Christmas tree was introduced by King George III's German wife Charlotte but did not spread much beyond the royal family. It really started to become popular with Queen Victoria . After her marriage to her German cousin, Prince Albert, the custom became even more widespread. The generous Prince Albert also presented large numbers of trees to schools and army barracks at Christmas. Images of the royal family with their Christmas tree were illustrated in English magazines, and copied by American magazines at Christmas 1850. Such patriotic prints of the British royal family at Christmas celebrations helped popularise the Christmas tree in Britain and among the anglophile American upper class (!) Now they are more democratic fortunately.

Traditionally, Christmas trees were not brought in and decorated until Christmas Eve (24 December), and then removed the day after twelfth night (i.e., 6 January); to have a tree up before or after these dates was even considered bad luck. But now people have to decorate their Christmas trees a week or two before, as many of them are working and have no time to do everything on the 24th. But I remember from my childhood that on 24th morning the door of the living room was closed, because the tree was decorated and no children were allowed to watch.

The only reference I have for today's uses in Germany is my best girlfriend. I know her since we were together in primary school, and is the only contact I still have with Germany today. Her family is still celebrating this way and still has real wax candles as it were use in the beginning of Christmas trees. And now her daughter who has 3 children still celebrates the same way too. Electric candles are considered as tasteless or even vulgar in many German families and therefore the firemen have a lot of work on Christmas eve.

I also had taken over this use of real candles, but after the first Christmas together with a dog, a cat and a young boy, I had to be "vulgar" too, because the dog turned around the tree, the cat were chasing everything what moved and little boy tried to blow out the candles.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us And this is the best virtual Christmas tree I could find ! and my favourite one. It was on a German Blog and I felt free to copy and paste as I am convinced it is the sense of this tree. An international Christmas tree which shows that at least for this we are all together. (I put it already, I know, but I love it )

Before you go : Please vote once a day for my blogfriend Mrs. Lifecruiser as best diarist ! A little click doesn't cost anything ! Thanks. Votes until Dec 15.

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  • 4 comments:

    mar said...

    Post the virtual tree as often as your heart so desires, it is a beautiful one!
    Thanks for the little history lesson. German Xmas trees with the real wax candles make me very, very nervous... It looks very pretty but it requires too much attention, I'd rather sit down to chat and sip my drink, lol!

    happy and blue 2 said...

    Interesting history of the Christmas tree. Hanging food on a tree sounds kind of gross but what the heck. If it's traditional I'll hang a few pork chops on mine today, ha,ha..

    Sue said...

    Loved reading the history of the Christmas tree and the German traditions.
    Candles on a tree sound very lovely but dangerous to me!
    (I'd probably be vulgar too!)
    :)

    Mrs Lifecruiser said...

    This was interesting and informative. good. I was thinking of looking it up myself, now you did the job for me, thanks! Real candles? Phew! Scary.

    The first Swedish christmas tree was from 1741, but only in the more rich familys. It wasn't until around 1900 before it spread to the common farmers out in the small cottages.