A Little Christmas Tree History
For thousands of years, Evergreen Fir trees have been used to celebrate both pagan and Christian winter festivals. The use of Fir trees as Christmas trees began in northern Europe about 1000 years ago. It’s believed that the 16th century German preacher, Martin Luther, was the first to bring the Christmas tree inside the house. In those days, Christmas trees were decorated with edible items such as gingerbread and gold covered apples. Later, glass makers began to make small ornaments, much like the ones we use today, to be hung on the tree. Around the 1830s, Christmas trees were first introduced in Britain, quickly becoming very popular. During Victorian times, candles were lit and placed on trees to represent stars. This is still done in some parts of Europe today, though the risk of fire deters many from using flaming candles. Luckily, American telephonist Ralph Morris invented electric Christmas lights to replace candles in 1895, making them the safer way to make a Christmas tree sparkle.
There are various explanations as to why we place decorations on a Christmas tree every year. Some say it began when people used to decorate winter trees outside their homes after the leaves fell. They worried that when leaves fell from the trees, the spirit of the tree abandoned it, and without the spirits, the tree would no longer survive. Adding ornaments made the tree beautiful and attracted the spirits once again. Many Christians believe that Christmas trees are decorated with symbols and ornaments to give spiritual meaning to the tree: the star on the top represents the star of Bethlehem that led the three wise men to the stable where the baby Jesus was born; lights on the tree represent the stars that twinkled in the night sky during their journey; tinsel is the sparks of the fire that Joseph lit to keep Mary and Jesus warm; candy canes on a tree represent the Shepherds staff, as a Shepherd was there to witness the birth of Jesus, and so on.
Modern Day Decorating
In most homes today, our Christmas trees are covered with far more than lights, tinsel, and candy canes. Most Christmas trees display a collection of memories of our lives. Everywhere we go, we can purchase some sort of ornament to add to our collection. Ornaments from vacations we shared as a family. Special occasion ornaments for graduates or when we purchased a new home. “Our First Christmas Together” ornaments. We clutter our trees with handmade ornaments of small photos of our children from each school year, colored and decorated with their own little hands. We have ornaments representing our favorite sports teams and tv characters. Pretty much anything that we have ever liked or has ever happened to us can be showcased on our Christmas tree each year. Yet, in every home where there stands a beautiful Christmas tree, there are also at least two or three ornaments that really stand out. These are the ones that, upon unpacking them year after year, always spark a most precious memory or feeling in us. While I adore the handmade ornaments my children have created over the years, and I love the commemorative ornaments that make me recall a special time in our lives, I am lucky to have three ornaments that I truly treasure.