“Freshly cut Christmas trees smelling of stars and snow and pine resin – inhale deeply and fill your soul with wintry night.” John J. Geddes
Interestingly the concept of the using trees to celebrate festivals or major events have been there since the early days of civilization. Before the emergence of Christianity, trees and plants that stood the drought and force of winter, remaining green against the white canvas held a special meaning for the people in the cold winter. Believing that evergreen boughs hung over the doors and windows would keep away evil, ghosts and illness as well as remind one of the spring around the corner, Pagans used branches of it to decorate their homes during the winter solstice. Fir Trees were decorated in the Roman temples at the festival of Saturnalia. Similar practices were followed by Ancient Egyptians and Druids during their pagan festivals.
Although for Christians, the fir tree symbolizes as a sign of everlasting life with God; the initial origins are still doubtful. One of the earliest related stories is traced to Germany based on Saint Boniface. In the year 722 AD, he had encountered some pagans who were about to sacrifice a child at the base of a huge oak tree. To prevent the sacrifice, he had cut down the tree and a Fir tree grew up at the base of the oak. He then spread the message that this lovely evergreen, with its branches pointing to heaven, was a holy tree, the tree of the Christ child, and a symbol of His promise of eternal life.
Another legend from Germany of how the Christmas Tree came into being goes as a reminder of care and love for fellow beings. On a cold Christmas Eve night, a forester and his family were gathered gathered round the fire in their cottage to keep warm. Suddenly there was a knock on the door. When the forester opened the door, he found a ragged poor little boy standing on the door step, lost and alone. The forester welcomed him into his home and the boy was fed, washed and put to bed in the youngest son’s own bed. The next day which was Christmas Morning, the family were woken up by a choir of angels and the poor little boy had turned into Jesus, the Christ Child. The Christ Child went into the front garden of the cottage and broke off a branch of a Fir tree and gave it to the family as a present to say thank you for looking after him. Since then, people have remembered that night by bringing a Christmas Tree into their homes.
The Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes can be credited to Germans. They had built Christmas pyramids of wood and when wood was scarce, decorated them with evergreens and candles. Yet the popular belief is that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, had first added lighted candles to a tree. In order to recapture the brilliant view of the twinkling stars amidst the evergreens, for his family; he erected a tree in his main family room and wired its branches with lighted candles. In 1846, the sketch of the then popular royals Queen Victoria and Prince Albert standing with their children around a Christmas tree; had resulted in widened popularity of the Christmas tree and its’ acceptance and appearance in many households. Since then the trend has caught on and stayed.
From Christmas lights to handmade ornaments, apples , nuts, marzipan cookies, Gingerbread men and so on, Christmas trees have been adorned in homes, neighbourhoods and communities. While the traditional fir tree has been replicated where ever possible; Christmas trees range from pine trees, spruce trees or even tall trees in their garden especially in tropical climates. Although the Christmas tree has been vastly popularized commercially or artistically; the true origin and concept still stands the same; adorning our homes, being the evergreen surviving the winter ice and snow.