Whenever we think of Christmas, one of the first things that springs to mind is the tree. Did you know that over 90% of Dutch households put up a Christmas tree at Christmas? But where does the Christmas tree actually originate from and how did the tradition of having a decorated tree in one’s home at Christmas come about?
The tradition of the Christmas tree began at pagan winter festivals during the Germanic period. It involved putting up a green tree, which was a symbol of renewal and fertility. They chose the fir tree because it was an evergreen. The fir tree heralded the coming of spring, while the stars and moons used to decorate it were symbolic of divinity.
The Christmas tree would later reappear in wealthy German households, where apples were used as decorations. This symbol was a means of celebrating “Adam and Eve’s day” on 24 December. Within a short time, British nobility had also adopted this tradition. Plays were performed around the Christmas tree as a way of familiarising the illiterate with Bible stories. Following the British ruling classes, the tradition also spread to other regions of Europe. It was even introduced to the United States, by German emigrants who had made the Atlantic crossing. Within just a few decades, the Christmas tree became commercialised, and increasingly lavish in the process.
Nowadays, it is still the Christmas tradition to bring an evergreen tree indoors for decoration. The humble apples and candles originally used for this purpose, however, have long since made way for an absolutely astounding range of decorations. Today’s Christmas tree is hung full of the most beautifully decorated Christmas baubles, lights and garlands. The tree ends up literally smothered in shimmering objects.
The artificial Christmas tree was invented in Germany back in the 18th century. This original comprised twenty-five branches and was decorated with dyed down and red berries. From then on, artificial Christmas trees became an increasingly common phenomenon. Later versions featured a variety of broom bristles, which eventually led to an artificial Christmas tree entirely made of aluminium. Increasing numbers of people opt for an artificial Christmas tree. Towards the close of each year, the tree is taken out of the mothballs and lovingly decorated once more. Contemporary Christmas decorations are available in literally all shapes and sizes, while there is also a large variety of trees, the majority of which are artificial.
Celebrating Christmas has truly become a family occasion, when we exchange presents and have dinner with one another. Furthermore, the Christmas tree is the ideal spot around which to arrange such gifts. A sense of snugness and warmth is key in this regard. It is best if it snows too, of course, as there is nothing more appealing than a white Christmas?