The concept of Christmas tree was first introduced by Germany long back in 16th century. It was the time when Christians brought adorned Christian tree to their homes. Wooden Christmas tree and evergreens bedecked the new looking homes. Candles are also used to give the homes a better and different look. Eventually, people of the other places of Europe also had started to follow the traditions and cultures related to the Christmas tree. Christmas tree looked even more fashionable and attractive when the husband of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, had bejeweled the first English tree at Windsor candle with candles, sweets, fruits and gingerbread in 1841. The tradition was followed by many English families later on. All kinds of extravagant items were used to decorate the tree and homes. According to Charles Dickens the Christmas trees were well covered and adorned with the fine looking dolls, miniature furniture, costume jewelry, little musical instruments, toy guns, swords, candy and fruits in 1850.
Most of the Americans had seen the peculiarities and oddness more than anything else in the Christmas tree in 19th century. It was on display in 1830s for the first time by the German settlers of Pennsylvania. The purpose was nice though. It was on display to raise money for the local church. Once the tree was set up outside of a church, people of Local Township didn’t take it positively. An outburst of anger was noticed; they thought it as a return of paganism. People of the parish asked the minister to take necessary steps and take it down.
Even though the popularity of Christmas tree was notable in Germany but by the 1890s Christmas ornaments started to arrive in the US market as well. However, the convention for both Europe and US was quite different. Europeans liked to use small Christmas trees of 4 feet height where as Americans preferred gigantic Christmas trees, length of which varied enormously.
In the early 20th century Americans were inclined towards the homemade ornaments. Homemade decorations were mainly used to bedeck the Christmas trees but the German- Americans had continued their old and impressive tradition of adorning the Christmas trees with apples, nuts and marzipan cookies. Popcorns were the new items of decorations along with berries and nuts.
The Christmas lights had helped the Christmas tree to beam when it is dark with the aid of the Electricity. Christmas trees were on display across the country. The beautifully decorated edifices mark the onset of the Christmas holidays.
In the early days, horns and bells were used to scare the evil spirits. Before that angels and fairies were used as signs of bringing good luck.
Angels, peacocks, numerous birds and many stars were usually used during Christmas to decorate Christmas tree in Poland. Beautifully painted wooden decorations, animals and children figures were the chief items which were used in Sweden. Tiny Danish flags, mobile of bells stars, snowflakes and small hearts were hanged to decorate the Christmas tree in Denmark. On the other hand, tiny fans and paper lamps were used during Christmas in Japan. The awe-inspiring trees were covered with straw bird cages, stars and geometric shapes in Lithuania. In the forthcoming year everyone wishes for good crops from the almighty through straw. Ornaments of painted egg shells were portrayed on Czechoslovakian trees.
To bring good luck in the daily life spider and web were used on the Christmas tree in Ukraine. According to a folktale an unfortunate and poor woman woke up in the early Christmas morning to find the branches wrapped with spider webs for decorating Christmas tree. She found out that the spider webs turned to silver by the bright sunlight of rising sun.
Many legends exist about the origin of the Christmas tree. The organizer of Christian church in France and Germany, Saint Boniface, the English monk was the protagonist in one of these stories. Once upon a time when he was traveling, he came across a group of pagans who had congregated around an oak tree. He saw that these pagans were about to offer a sacrifice of human child to the God Thor. He eagerly wanted to stop them from taking the little fellow’s life. He decided to hit and break the tree with one mighty blow of his fist. A small fir tree was grown in place of the oak tree. According to Boniface the tree stood the eternal life of Christ. He told the pagan worshippers that the little fir tree symbolizes life.
There is another story of Martin Luther. Martin Luther was the founder of the protestant faith. While he was walking through a forest on a Christmas Eve, he was impressed by the beauty of millions of stars showing their lights through the evergreen tree branches. He was mesmerized with this fabulous vista and had decided to cut down a small tree. He took the tree for his family. To watch the same marvelous sight of the forest, he had decorated the wooden branches of the tree with a number of candles.
Another legend tells the story of an unfortunate woodsman who met a mislaid and starving child on one Christmas Eve. Even thought the woodsman was really poor but he arranged food and offered shelter to the child. The woodsman woke up in the very next morning to find a beaming tree outside his home and surprisingly he found one as well. The child was really the Christ child who camouflaged. The child rewarded the poor woodsman the glittering tree for his charity.
“Paradise Play” is the origin of Christmas tree, at least some feel it. Previously not many people could read. So, the plays were organized to teach the tales of the Bible all over Europe. The Paradise Play was performed on 24th December each year. It showed the creation of man. To perform it, apple trees were needed. But, in winter apple trees don’t bare fruits. So evergreens were hung with apples.
The story of spiders and Christmas trees were popular in Germany. In earlier days, people wanted their animals to be a part of the Christmas celebration because it was believed that the Christ child was born in a stable. So, they allowed their animals to come inside their homes to see the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. Homemakers didn’t allow spider to come inside their homes because they didn’t want to spoil things inside. Spiders were unhappy for this and they complained to the Christ child. The Christ child was sad for the spiders and helped them get into the home at late night to watch the Christmas tree. Spiders enjoyed the whole night, they moved slowly and happily from one branch to another. The trees were covered with webs. The housewives were really contented on the next day seeing what spiders had done. All the cobwebs were turned into the sparkling tinsel with the help of the Christ child. The tradition of decorating the Christmas tree with the tinsel is still followed.
The tradition of ornamenting the Christmas tree and homes during Christmas arose from the Roman and Christian cultures. Early Christians believed that flowers of certain trees were bloomed irrationally on Christmas Eve as homage to Jesus’ birth. The impressive traditions of decorating the homes with angel tree toppers have emerged from the early Christian belief and Roman practices.
Even though the Europeans had started to adorn various structures and trees in Europe from 17th century but the first written account of a “Christmas tree” had appeared in 1605. According to the John Matthew’s “The Winter Solstice”, German citizens used to decorate the trees with “roses cut out of many colored paper, apples, wafers, gold-foil, [and] sweets”. More than 100 years later, the professor Karl Gottfried Kissling of the University of Witten burg wrote that the people at that point of time loved to decorate trees and homes with candles.
The particular practice was not liked by the religious leaders initially. However, it spread all over the world later on. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of England showcased their lavishly decorated tree at their palace in 1840. By the early 1900s Offering gifts and the tales of Santa Clause became the integral parts of Christmas celebrations along with the Christmas tree decorations.The patterns of decorations have changed over the years. Today evergreens are used in large numbers to adorn the Christmas trees. Hand crafted and edible items were predominately used previously. Nuts, candles, fruits and colored papers were the commonly used items for decorations. Ornaments brought from stores are used more often than not. Chain of electric lights is used to decorate the branches of the trees now. The essence of the festival is in the congregation of the family members at one particular place. Exchanging gifts and love still are the central ideas of the majestic Christmas carnival.