It’s that time of year again when friends and family think about the Christmases past and plan for the upcoming holiday. As we reflect on this festive holiday, we remember that Christmas is not just any holiday, but may be the most important one of the year for some. It’s a time for remembering, a time to share the goodness of your heart with others, and for expressing with words and gifts what someone means to you. It’s a chance to make wishes come true for old and young alike.
I sincerely hope you will have an ideal Christmas, one that is celebrated as a reflection of your values, desires and traditions.
The History of the Christmas Tree
In the Northern hemisphere, the shortest day and longest night of the year falls on December 21 or December 22 and is called the winter solstice. Many ancient people believed that the sun was a god and that winter came every year because the sun god had become sick and weak. They celebrated the solstice because it meant that, at last, the sun god would begin to get well. Evergreen boughs reminded them of all the green plants that would grow again when the sun god was strong and summer would return.
At the solstice, the ancient Egyptians filled their homes with green palm rushes which symbolized the triumph of life over death. Early Romans marked the solstice with a feast in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. To mark the occasion, they decorated their homes and temples with evergreen boughs. In Northern Europe the mysterious Druids, the priests of the ancient Celts, also decorated their temples with evergreen boughs as a symbol of everlasting life.
Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. The Pennsylvania German settlements had community trees as early as 1747. But, as late as the 1840’s, Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols and not accepted by most Americans.
It is not surprising that, like many other festive Christmas customs, the tree was adopted so late in America. To the New England Puritans, Christmas was sacred and any joyful expression that desecrated “that sacred event” was a “penal offense”.
In 1846, the popular royals, Queen Victoria and her German Prince, Albert, were sketched in the News standing with their children around a Christmas tree, and the Christmas tree was made popular! By the 1890’s Christmas ornaments were arriving from Germany and Christmas tree popularity was on the rise. It was noted that Europeans used small trees about four feet in height, while North Americans liked their Christmas trees to reach from floor to ceiling.
Electricity brought about Christmas lights, making it possible for Christmas trees to glow for days on end. With this, Christmas trees began to appear in town squares across the country and having a Christmas tree in the home became a North American tradition!