We all love Christmas, and what is one of the main focal points of Christmas? The Christmas Tree, of course! But what does the tree that stands in our house during this festive holiday actually symbolise? What does the Christmas tree represent?
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A Brief History of the Christmas Tree?
The use of evergreens and greenery was used as a symbol for winter festivals as these were the plants that would last all year round and were believed to protect the house from evil spirits, witches, ghosts and illnesses.
People believed that they would be protected as these plants would remain green throughout the year, especially throughout winter; it was not only a sign for protection but health.
What is the true origin of the Christmas tree?
The Christmas tree was originally a pagan religious symbol of celebration. It is more so known as a German tradition.
The Christmas tree started off as being a pyramid tree, if people could not find a plant to represent the tree. People would use wood to create a pyramid and decorate it with nuts, gingerbread, apples, paper and candles to resemble a tree.
The trees and pyramids would usually be paraded around the town to show to the other households on Christmas Eve as a sign of health, in order to keep the evil spirits away. It became wildly popular throughout the 16th century, slowly it spread to become highly popular among nobility and royalty.
Is a Christmas tree a religious symbol?
Romans would use evergreens to decorate their temples for the festival of Saturnalia, Ancient Egyptians would similarly use green palm rushes to decorate their temples as part of worship to the God of Ra. (Read more on What is the origin of Christmas?)
It is believed that the first known Christmas tree that was brought inside and decorated was during the 16th century by a man called Martin Luther. It was said that on his walk home, he saw the stars through the evergreen trees and went home to tell his children that it reminded of him of Jesus. He later wrote a sermon about the experience for his church, leading to the spread of people decorating the trees with candles as a symbol of letting Jesus into their homes. The Christmas tree represents Jesus and the light he brings to the world, for Christians.
Where did decorating the Christmas tree come from?
It came from the tradition of covering the tree or ‘Christmas pyramid’ with gingerbread, candles, and various other decorations to replicate/resemble the nativity story of Jesus. This was so that when people would go around presenting and showing others their Christmas trees/pyramids they were inviting people to the church to watch their nativity performance on the story of Christ.
Though as the years went, it was more common for families to keep their trees inside to decorate as their own, and not as showpieces for the village.
Could you imagine having to carry around a Christmas tree now throughout your block, it comes as no surprise that we now keep our Christmas trees for only our families to enjoy.
Why do we put ornaments on a Christmas tree?
Nowadays decorating the Christmas tree is such a special moment for families, its the time of year where they all come together to decorate the tree that they all sit around and place presents under as the centrepiece of their Christmas celebration.
But the origin as to why we put ornaments on the tree is back in the 16th-century. Europeans would decorate their trees with apples to symbolise the paradise tree in the story of Adam and Eve, as so to remind them of paradise tree that held the forbidden fruit Eve succumbed to.
The Christmas trees were later decorated with delicious treats like gingerbread in the shape of stars, angels and holly as we know today.
The first Christmas bauble
It’s said that the first glass ornament was created by glassblower Hans Greiner, he couldn’t afford to buy apples, so he decided to make his own glass apples. When others saw his creations, they began to order his glass apples and other glass ornaments that resembled fruit and nuts to symbolise the Christmas holiday.
Now I don’t know about you but these glass apples and nuts sound an awful lot like the baubles we would buy today, no wonder they were popular!
Why do we put lights on a Christmas tree?
Putting lights on a tree goes back to the idea of the lights representing Jesus as Light in the darkness. Lights and ornaments on the tree came to represent the stars and planets in the sky. Many Christians would place a manger under their trees as so to replicate the nativity of Jesus Christ under the stars.
Though it wasn’t until the mid-19th century that American and Brits would actually decorate their trees! It became fashionable after Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, brought the tradition over from Germany. (Read more on How To Celebrate Christmas Victorian Style)
Putting lights on Christmas trees, however (candles) in America meant that buckets of water and sand were required as it was not uncommon for the trees to catch fire, for which they did, fairly often.
Now, it wasn’t until 1882 once Thomas Edison developed electricity, his partner Edward Johnson decorated his tree with electric lights and adopting the title “Father of the Electric Christmas Tree”. From there the custom of decorating Christmas trees with electric lights grew and grew and by 1920 electric Christmas lights were known to every store.
Why do we put tinsel on a Christmas tree?
Tinsel was created in Europe in the 17th century, it was developed by hammering silver alloy until it was paper-thin and cut into strips. It was added as a decoration for a Christmas tree to reflect the candle flames flicker and glisten. As though there were twinkling stars in the sky, but on their trees.
Obviously we can now get tinsel in almost every colour imaginable, but when you think about it the combination of the tinsel and the lights do create a sort of twinkling star effect, making this time of year all the more magical for you and your family.
We hope that answers your questions on what the Christmas the represents?