A Short History of the Christmas Tree

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20151213A.jpgThe Christmas tree is an old German tradition actually dating back well before the time of Christ. According to the beliefs of the northern European pagan tribes, winter, with its short days and its trees that lose their leaves, represented the death of nature and the end of the world. Fortunately, by using the right rituals and sacrifices, it was possible to turn the tide and bring the world back to life. So they celebrated Yule, or the Feast of renewal, when the days began to lengthen, that is to say around the end of our month of December.

The fir tree was at the center of their celebrations. Since it retains its needles even in a time of “death”, it represented immortality. So they decorated it with ribbons of birch bark, bits of meat and candles for the feast of Yule. Over time, the festival of Yule and that of the more recently introduced Christmas melded into one and the decorated Christmas tree thus became part of the Christian Christmas tradition, particularly in Germany and Alsace.

It is believed that German mercenaries first brought the tradition of the Christmas tree to North America. Then, under the influence of the United States, it spread around the world! Indeed, Christmas is now celebrated even in China where brilliantly lit artificial fir trees decorate streets, parks and storefronts. However the celebration there has no religious overtone and is instead seen as a kind of winter carnival.

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