It’s impossible to imagine Christmas without an Evergreen tree, pine or fir, decorated with lights and ornaments. The use of the evergreen tree symbolizes the eternal life for the ancient Egyptians, Chinese and Jews. They could be different – big, small, natural, artificial, with sophisticated decorations, humble, but what they all do is to symbolize the spirit of Christmas.
It’s not an easy task to speak about the origins of the Christmas tree. The legends of the fir tree are as old as the cultivation of the same tree.
One says that the tradition has its origins in the celebrations of the god Frey, the god of the Sun and the fertility in Northern Europe. Others say that it comes from the old German belief that a giant tree was holding the world and its branches were sustained in the stars, moon and sun. One is the story of St. Boniface, an English monk who organized the Christian church in France and Germany. One day he saw a group of pagans around an oak, preparing to sacrifice a child to the god Thor. To stop the sacrifice and to save the child, he felled the tree with one powerful fist. On that place grew up a small fir. The Saint explained to the people, that the little tree is the tree of life and Jesus lives within.
For the Celtic group of Britain, the Christmas tree was discovered by Parsifal, a knight of the round table of King Arthur, while he was looking for the Holy Grail. Legend says that the gentleman saw a tree full of bright lights.
The custom took root in Germany and the Scandinavian countries in the XVI and XVII, then moved to England.
The closest antecedent to our Christmas tree tradition seems to go back to Germany in the early years of the seventeenth century. In 1605 a tree was decorated for Christmas and this custom spread rapidly around the world.
In England the Christmas tree came into 1846 thanks to the marriage of Prince Albert with Queen Victoria. Because the Christmas tree was already a tradition in Germany, Prince Albert decided to spend Christmas as he used to in his country. He put a huge Christmas tree at Windsor Castle and this custom was accepted soon from the middle class and then from the working class. At that time began another tradition – the women carry out the Christmas decorations in their homes – candles, angels, small bags containing secret gifts, baskets with sugared almonds.
It is not a coincidence that the tree as a symbol has been imposed so deeply in the heart of Christianity. In Christianity, Christmas tree remembers the paradise tree, and therefore, reminds that Jesus is the one that came into the world so that our sins being forgiven. It also means the tree of the eternal life, being evergreen.
It is a symbol of life, it doesn’t lose its green foliage in winter when nature seems dead. In some houses in the Nordic countries in winter they cut some branches and decorate them with bread, fruits and shiny ornaments to brighten the life in the house while passing the winter.
For most people the trees have a very special meaning. In all cultures we find that the tree has some anthropological meaning, mystical and poetic. In some cultures it represents the union of heaven and earth. The tree is related to fertility, growth, wisdom and longevity.
The tradition of the Christmas ornaments began in Germany and the Scandinavian countries, in the XVI and XVII, then went to England. In the beginning the Christmas tree was decorated with food and all natural elements. Now we use a wide range of ornaments and lights, synthetic, natural, dry, fresh, white or green. What really matters is that there is still magic, hope and faith in better times around the tree. The Christmas spirit is what counts, and the Christmas tree, is a synonymous of the celebration, joy, love and shared moments.