All Things Christmas - Origin of the Christmas Tree and Evergreen Arrangements
Many of us decorate our homes every Christmas with beautiful fragrant arrangements of evergreens to include Christmas trees and wreaths. My mother would always search our nearby woods every year to find running cedar and make beautiful arrangements and wreaths to decorate with. Many of us decorate with artificial evergreens but it all has the same meaning for us at Christmas. Fake or real, the tradition came from somewhere. This year I plan to research these things and explain to my children where these traditions came from in hopes they too will share with their children. I believe that knowing why we do some of these things gives them more meaning. This hub will explain the Christmas tree, significance of evergreens, and the wreath. I will touch on other traditions in additional hubs. I will share all of these with my family this year. Please share with yours.
Before the advent of Christianity, evergreens had a special meaning to people from all cultures. In many countries people thought that hanging arrangements of evergreens over their doors would scare away witches and other evil spirits. I am curious if this works for evil relatives that show up at your door during Christmas?
For others, it was a symbol of life and renewal that was to come after a long cold winter. The winter solstice is the shortest day and longest night of the year. It falls on either December 21st or December 22nd. The winter solstice was celebrated in the Northern Hemisphere by arranging evergreen boughs and placing them either above the door or around the house. People believed that the sun god was sick during the winter. The evergreens reminded them of the sun god that would be getting better and recovering from his illness starting with the winter solstice and would return soon to provide them with green plants again.
The ancient Egyptians also utilized an evergreen plant called a green palm to celebrate the winter solstice. Their God, Ra, was also ill during the winter months and during winter solstice would triumph life over death.
Romans also decorated their homes and temples with evergreen boughs to celebrate the winter solstice. They knew that this meant that farms and orchards would soon be green and fruitful again.
The Christmas Tree
During the 16th century in Germany, the Germans would bring evergreen trees into their homes and decorate them. Some would build pyramids of wood and attach evergreens to it to symbolize a tree. Martin Luther, a 16th century Protestant reformer was credited with adding lights to the tree. He was amazed at the stars twinkling among the trees on his way home one night and felt the need to recreate that with wiring branches of his tree with candles to recapture that moment. I can not imagine the fire hazard of wiring the branches of trees back in that day!
As late as the 19th century most Americans saw the Christmas tree as a Pagan symbol and it was not accepted. Americans viewed Christmas as sacred. They felt that Christmas trees and other decorations were a “Pagan mockery” of this sacred event. The general court of Massachusetts even put a law into place in 1659 that made any celebration of Christmas other than a church service against the law. People were fined for hanging decorations.
Americans for the most part felt this way about Christmas celebration up until the mid 1800's. During this time Queen Victoria and her German Prince Albert were sketched with their family in front of a Christmas tree. This royal family was very popular with their subjects so it quickly became fashionable to have a Christmas tree. This quickly made its way into the Americas with the influx of German and Irish immigrants bringing their traditions of the Christmas tree into America in the 19th century. The Christmas tree soon became tradition throughout England and the United States.
The Christmas Wreath
Wreaths have been used throughout history to symbolize pride and victory for military heroes, athletes, and ancient Romans. Women have worn them throughout time as embellishment or as a fashion accessory. The tradition of the Christmas wreath came from the Catholic Advent wreath. The Advent wreath has 4 candles in the circle and 1 candle in the middle. The wreath is made of evergreens to symbolize permanence of life. The circle means there is no beginning or end and God is eternal. Today the wreath is more of a decorative piece but the significance remains the same.
More by this Author
Let me introduce you to Gloria Mayfield Banks. She is an Elite Executive National Sales Director for Mary Kay Cosmetics. She is a multi-millionaire with over 6,000 consultants under her. She is truly an inspiration...
Yes, you read it correctly. High heels for men is a trend that seems to be picking up pace. I am not necessarily talking about cross dressing men or female impersonators. I am also talking about heterosexual men wearing...
A Teddy Bear puppy is a designer breed that is a cross between a Shih Tzu and a Bichon Frise. The Teddy Bear is an excellent choice of pet for a family with children. It is a small dog that will max out at about 12...