Every year we all go into our loft and pull out the Christmas tree, or we pick out a fresh one, we put them into our homes and decorate them because it is traditional to do so, but where exactly does the Christmas tree originate from? Where does the idea of bringing a tree into your house and decorating it with baubles and an angel actually come from?
We know that the Christmas tree originated from the renaissance era and in early modern Germany, however, its exact origin can only be speculated upon. The most common theories of the origin of the Christmas tree are:
Is the patron saint of Germany, and was also the first archbishop of Mainz, during the 8th century he made his mission to convert as many Pagan German people to Christianity as possible. He chopped down the “donar’s oak”, a tree the pagans believed was sacred, in order to prove that it was not sacred. From the roots of the donar’s oak a fir tree grew, Saint Boniface called this tree “the tree of the Christ Child”. Another version of this story is that when the donar’s oak was chopped down, it destroyed everything it came into contact with, except a little fir tree and again Saint Boniface termed this tree “the tree of the Christ Child”. Further to this, it is believed that when Saint Boniface was explaining the divine hierarchy of God and his followers, he used the triangular shape that fir trees are as a visual representation of this hierarchy.
Martin Luther King:
Some theorists believe that the Christmas tree originates from Martin Luther, in Germany in the 16th century. The story is that he was walking through a forest through the snow one night, and saw a large pine tree that was covered in snow and was glistening as it was being lit up by the moonlight. He thought the tree was so beautiful that he decided to chop it down and take it home, in hopes of re-erecting for his family and re-creating the beautiful sight. He lit candles and hung them on the tree long, this became the early Christmas tree decorations we know today. Initially people used candles, fruit and berries to decorate the tree, now we use fairy lights and baubles.
The Paradise Tree:
In Europe, during the Middle Ages, medieval mystery plays became widely popular in which Adam and Eve could be seen attaining a fir tree which they said represented the ‘tree of life, of knowledge and of good and evil’, and they decorated this tree with apples. On the annual feast, on 24th December, of Adam and Eve people would replicate these plays in churches and a few homes by bringing fir trees into them and decorating them, thus starting the tradition of the Christmas Tree.
The first forms of decorations on Christmas trees were edible things such as fruit, nuts and berries, as time evolved and the Christmas tree became a worldwide symbol of Christmas, people started using different decorations, in America for example they strung popcorn around the tree, and in Germany balls were made and stuffed with sweets and nuts, today we see these plastic versions of these decorations, with a longer life but not as natural looking, tinsel is used instead of string of berries or popcorn, baubles are hung instead of apples or balls filled with nuts, fairy lights replace the fire hazard of hanging candles from a tree. The star or angel on top of the tree is said to represent the story of the birth of Jesus Christ, the angel representing and angel Gabriel, and the star representing the star that shone the way to Bethlehem for Mary and Joseph.