Christmas trees are the quintessential piece of the holidays. People go absolutely crazy with their ideas for decorating them. There are even people who leave their trees up all year long, to keep that holiday spirit going. During the holiday, there are also plenty of people who decorate multiple trees. Have you ever wondered where the traditions started or what are some of the strangest things that people do to their trees. So where did it all begin?
The tradition of using evergreens for decorations during winter solstice can be traced back to the Romans, for the most part. Their holiday honored Saturn and they decorated the homes and cities in laurel boughs. This evergreen was thought to chase away evil spirits and energies and bring about luck. It was also a symbol of power over death, due to them staying green all year long.
Firs As The First Christmas Trees
Firs being used as trees probably originated around the 8th century in Germany. As the story goes, St Boniface was a missionary to Germany and visited a local pagan winter festival. There he decided to cut down the mighty Thunder Oak, an oak tree sacred to the god Thunder. As his final blow fell the tree, it came crashing down and destroyed everything in its path except for a lone fir tree. At the felling of this mighty tree and the fir tree being the only survivor, Boniface dedicated that fir to the Chirst-child and made it holy. However, it would take another 8 centuries before anyone decided that this tree needed to be decorated and again we owe that to the Germans. History says that the first decorations were probably nuts, fruits, and cookies.
Oddly, firs were not the first trees to be used to celebrate this holiday. In the early days, before pines were the tree of choice, Europeans used cherry or hawthorn trees as their centerpiece for the holiday. The flowers of these trees were the appeal, you could cut a branch off the tree, bring it inside, put it in a pot of water, and it would flower just in time for Christmas.
Upside Down Christmas Tree
We cant have a Christmas tree without the stand or can we? Sure there are the normal wooden cross, metal, and even rotating Christmas tree stands but is that the only way to have your Christmas tree. A medieval custom would say no. As the story goes, A Benedictine monk was trying to explain the holy trinity to a group of pagans. To explain it, he drew a tree upside down, creating an inverted triangle. However, by the 1900s, Polish people were still decorating their trees with fruits, nuts, and, etc but decided to take it a step further and hung their trees from the ceilings of their houses
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
No tree is complete without some decorations and as we have seen, history shows us that it started with nuts and fruits. But decorations have changed a lot over the years. Stories say that in the earlier days trees were decorated, outside, with candles and gilded apples. However, there is a different story. There once was a widow who found a tree for her children, She had no money to decorate the tree and when she went to bed, she cried that she was unable to make the tree special for her children. Thank night, spiders had heard her tears and decided to cover their tree in their webs. Some say that the webs turned to silver and gold and some say they just resembled precious metals, leaving the widow feeling rich on Christmas morning. Ukrainians considers spiders good luck and today, some still decorate their trees with spider ornaments and tinsel to resemble their webs. My sister gifted me a spider for one of Karl’s trees.
While Thomas Edison may be credited with creating the lightbulb, it was his colleague that decided to use the same electric lights to decorate a Christmas tree instead of the traditional candles. A smart choice since Christmas trees are basically seasonal fire hazards, anyway. Edison realized this was a good idea and decided to put the tree up in his power plant on a rotating box. This showcased all 80 red, white, and blue lights for the passerby, who had never seen anything like it before.
One of the more strange decorations I have seen on a tree is the pickle. If you haven’t heard of this decorating tradition, let me lay it on you. Essentially, when you are decorating your tree, you would hide a glass pickle ornament somewhere in the tree, Then on Christmas morning, your kids would start searching for the pickle. Depending on the tradition, the winning kid either received a prize or the right to be the first to open a gift. It is said that the reason behind it was to have the kids calm down a bit from being overly excited about opening gifts.
There are just a few crazy facts about Christmas trees. Use them to mystify your friends at your next Holiday party, even if it is virtual. If you have any crazy traditions you do with your tree, leave them in the comments below. I look forward to whatever you guys share. Happy Holidays!!