THE STORY OF THE CHRISTMAS TREE
Posted on December 05 2021
With Christmas approaching, it's time for a little Christmas story. Are you sitting comfortably? OK, let's begin.
To begin the story of the Christmas tree, we need to go all the way back to ancient times. Religions from ancient Egypt, Rome, Celtics and Vikings used plants at home as part of religious celebrations and to signify blessings for life, prosperity and abundance from the gods. The use of plants, especially evergreen plants can be found throughout ancient pagan belief systems too.
It is rumoured that merchants in the Early Modern Age started piling up plants, fruits and decorations which resembled modern Christmas trees at the public square of Riga, the capital of Latvia, in the year 1510 as part of Christmas celebrations. Although there’s no strong historical evidence that the Christmas tree tradition first started then, the plaque that commemorates the event is still there in Riga town square to this day.
Many historians agree that the modern Christmas tree tradition started with Martin Luther, the protestant reformist. It is believed that he was the first to bring a Fir tree into his home and decorate it with candles during Christmas time. The inspiration came from his experience walking in the forest under a starry night while composing his sermon. The tree represents the forest scene, and the candles represent the stars. He did that to recapture the scene for his family at home.
From then on the Christmas tree became a custom in Germany during Christmas time and quickly became popular throughout Europe. The story of Santa Claus was then added as part of the Christmas story in which Saint Nick (or Sinterklaas in Dutch) went around giving presents to children during early December and this later evolved into Santa Claus coming down from chimney to fill stockings with toys in the poem ‘The night before Christmas’ in 1823.
The trend eventually reached United Kingdom, where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were photographed with a Christmas tree in Windsor Castle in the 1840’s and made it a tradition that many royals and British high society adopted. Since, America also started adopting the Christmas tree as part of their Christmas celebrations and it eventually became customary in much of the western world and now all over the world where Christmas celebrations take place.
Who would have thought that starry night walk in the forest that inspired Martin Luther would become a custom all over the world?
Is it mere coincidence that the ancient religions and then Martin Luther used plants as the centre piece of their celebrations at home? Maybe yes, maybe no. But one thing for sure is that this Christmas season when you gather around the Christmas tree with your friends and family, you have a story to tell.