O tannenbaum, o tannenbaum…
We know this is Oh Christmas Tree, oh Christmas tree…and in fact the Christmas tree comes from early German Protestant celebrations of Christmas. But where did the Lutherans get this idea of decorating greenery in the middle of winter?
The Vikings made green bows part of their celebration of mid-winter, perhaps as an offering to spring and the regeneration of the plants. A thousand years before that, the Romans celebrated Saturnalia in December with green bows and merrymaking. And hundreds of years before that,the Shinto religion of Japan dictated that fresh bows of greenery be placed around the front door frame of a home to welcome the new year.
The first recorded Christmas tree was in 1441 in an area that is now Estonia and Latvia. A guild cut down a tree and put it in its guildhall and on the day before Christmas, they took it outside and put it in the town square and danced around it.
The Catholic Church was against Christmas Trees. They insisted that the Nativity scene was the proper Christmas decoration, but the idea was adopted by the royal houses and the upper classes in the 18th century. Apples and nuts and paper decorations were hung on the trees. Martin Luther himself supposedly put the first candles on a Christmas tree. Candles were embedded in apples and oranges to make them stand upright but they still caused many fires.
The final development was electricity. Christmas trees really came into their own with the creation of Christmas tree lights and added to the delight of having a green tree inside one’s house in the middle of winter.
NOTE: You can buy a tree with roots and plant it or donate it to a tree-planting group.