On Day 19, we celebrate one of the most beloved holiday traditions – the Christmas Tree. Read a few stories and enjoy Today's Concert.
There are many legends and histories that credit one country or individual as the originator of the Christmas tree, and often these narratives have become intertwined. Some people credit German theologian Martin Luther in the 1500s, others credit England’s Prince Albert in the 1840s. The truth is that many cultures and some individuals, over many hundreds of years, have played a role in the evolution of the Christmas tree that we know today.
Evergreen trees were used as a prop in Paradise Plays, performed at Christmastime in Medieval Europe; these Paradise Trees were also placed in people’s homes. The trees were decorated with apples to represent the fruit eaten by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Sometimes baked wafers, or hosts, were hung on the tree to symbolize the sacramental bread used in celebrating the Eucharist in Christian churches.
Written references to Christmas trees in people’s homes in Germany appear in the 1500s. In the centuries following, as people of German ancestry immigrated to other countries throughout Europe and eventually to North America, they brought with them the tradition of placing an evergreen tree in their homes at Christmas. Christmas trees grew in popular culture in Europe and North America in the 1800s.
Community Christmas trees, placed in civic squares, parks or outside city hall, began in North America in the United States in the early 1900s, with several towns and cities claiming to have had the first community Christmas tree.
Want to know more about Christmas traditions including the Christmas tree? Ask your local library to borrow:
The Christmas Tree Book: The History of the Christmas Tree & Antique Christmas Tree Ornaments, written by Philip Snyder, published by Viking Press in 1976
Inventing Christmas: How Our Holiday Came to Be, written by Jock Elliott, published by Abrams in 2002
Who comes through the night in a shiny gown?
It’s Christkindl coming to town!
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