Everyone knows that Christmas just isn’t Christmas until your family gets the holiday tree up and decorated. There is no other symbol of the holiday that is more universally recognized than a well-lit Christmas tree. The history of the Christmas tree starts in the sixth century.
Origin of the Christmas Tree
According to Christmas legend, the idea behind the tree comes from the actions of Saint Boniface, commonly known as the Apostle of the Germans. Sainted for his accomplishments in converting the early Germans to Christianity, the legend states that Boniface cut down the Tree of Thor, a tree that had been revered as a symbol of the Norse gods that they worshipped. By cutting down the tree, Boniface was able to convince the early Germans that they were following the wrong religion. The fir tree was then adopted as a symbol of Christianity in honor of Saint Boniface’s efforts.
In more recent times, in the 1600s Martin Luther established the tradition of decorating with an evergreen tree to celebrate Christmas. The Christmas tree was seen as a Protestant response to the Nativity scene, which was considered a Catholic Christmas decoration.
Christmas Tree Decorations
Very early in the development of the Christmas tree as a holiday decoration, people realized that there was a great deal of fun to be had in accessorizing the tree. In 1584, the first recorded instance of decorating a tree was made in Estonia, where a spruce tree was decorated and the young men and women of the village danced around it. During this time in the history of the popular holiday tree, most holiday celebrations were organized around the various trade guilds that could be found in each town. Each guild would select a tree to serve as the centerpiece of their guild hall, and then decorate it. It then served as the focal point for that guild’s Christmas festivities.
Christmas Trees Today
The 20th century saw a rise in the use of large holiday trees by cities and towns to serve as the center of the community’s holiday events. One popular tradition is the establishment of the National Christmas Tree, displayed proudly on the South Lawn of the White House and lit up each year by the President of the United States in a televised ceremony filled with all of the pageantry the nation can muster. The National Tree tradition started in 1923. The National Christmas Tree celebration has adapted with changing times, including its recent conversion to solar electricity to power its numerous lights.
The holiday tree adorning the plaza outside Rockefeller Center in New York City is another long-running holiday tradition. The plaza is turned into an ice-skating rink to accompany the tree. The use of Rockefeller Center by NBC’s entertainment and news divisions has cause the lighting of this beautiful tree to become a popular televised event, with musicians and comic acts making a production out of the tree’s lighting.
No matter what you do with your tree this holiday season, you will taking part in a centuries-old Yuletide tradition that is sure to enchant us for generations to come.
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