Saturday, 21 December 2013

The evolution and history of the Christmas tree...

 looking back in time with nostalgia!

SorrScandinavian Christmas Decorating Ideas-19-1 Kindesign
Picture from lantliv 
Every year at Christmas, all over the world , millions of people bring what we call a Christmas tree into their homes, decorate it and treat it as a symbol of Christmas...
Have you ever wondered why??

Christmas time brings a touch of nostalgia to most of us...We look back at Christmases past with fond memories. We remember how magical this time of year was when we were children, and we try to recreate that same magic for our children...
The twinkling lights on a decorated Christmas tree is perhaps the epiphany of these nostalgic feelings....

I admit it: It makes me feel like a child again...all warm and fuzzy...and full of anticipation!
As a self proclaimed nostalgic, I decided to find out a bit more about the history of the tradition of the Christmas tree, and as a little sidestep from my usual d├ęcor and DIY posts, I want to share with you all today, a brief history of the Christmas tree...
 
Here in the UK the tradition of the Christmas tree didn't start until Prince Albert and Queen Victoria was depicted with their children around one in the London Illustrated news in circa 1848.
Many contribute this royal tradition to Prince Albert's German roots, but there is evidence that there had been Christmas trees at Windsor Castle earlier than that....Either way...it soon became popular amongst the English to bring a fir tree into their home and decorate it for Christmas.

 Antique Christmas Tree Illustration via Knick of Time

This "new" tradition soon spread across the Atlantic, as the Americans also embraced the Christmas tree for the Holidays...
The Victorians decorated their tree with real candles to represent stars (a tradition said to have been started by the German church reformer Martin Luther) and handmade decorations. The rich used tinsel made from thin strips of hammered silver, and when man made tinsel was invented and became more readily available and affordable to the general public, this became a popular Christmas tree decoration...
Children with Christmas Tree Die Cut Card ~ Germany 
The popularity of the Christmas tree waned amongst the British after Queen Victoria's death, but was revived in the 1930's when Britain went through a phase of Dickensian nostalgia... And soon there was more options fur the public both in shape of fake Christmas trees, and in terms of an ever increasing variation of decorations becoming more readily available...
The Christmas tree's popularity is still growing, and forever evolving but it can be said with some certainty that we owe the tradition of the modern tree to the Victorians !!
But where did the Victorian royal family get the idea of a Christmas tree from in the first place?

 Instant Art - Giant Christmas Tree - Botanical
The evergreen fir tree was a symbol of eternal life amongst Nordic pagans in countries across northern Europe, and it was the Scandinavian pagans that first brought the tree indoors and decorate it to celebrate winter solstice...this was a celebration that represented the end of the dark and long winter nights, and the beginning of spring and its connection to life.

Norwegian Christmas Cards-O Christmas Tree
It wasn't just the fir tree that were believed to have special powers against the dark magic of winter, but all plants that stayed green throughout the year, like Holly, Mistletoe and Evergreen  was attributed mystical powers.
So when the Nordic countries where violently converted to Christianity in the 8th Century, a lot of the old pagan traditions, like the Christmas tree, was kept on and adapted to make the transition from their pagan beliefs to Christianity easier to stomach for the people...
There is evidence of the fir tree being used in Christmas celebrations all over Northern Europe from around the 10th century, and as we know that the Scandinavian Vikings did trade as far into Europe as the Baltics, it is not far fetched to assume that the tradition of bringing a fir tree indoors for Christmas would have travelled with them. And the first documented use of a tree at Christmas and New years celebrations is in the town square of Riga, Latvia from the year 1510 . Read more about "the first Christmas tree" here.
Germany is widely considered to be the birthplace of the Christmas tree, but it is likely that the Germans got the tradition from the neighbouring Latvians.
Early German Christmas trees were decorated with apples (later adapted into baubles) and ginger bread shapes and paper flowers..

The tradition of the Christmas tree slowly spread and evolved all over Europe, (although the Mediterranean countries were not taken with the tree, choosing instead to display a crib scene) and eventually Ended up as the incarnation made popular by the Victorians, thanks to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert...
The modern Christmas tree comes in more incarnations and varieties than ever, some real and some fake, with people choosing to chop and change their decorations up each year...
Thankfully, with the invention of electric light, the hazardous live candles used to decorate the tree with in Victorian times was soon replaced.
 

With the Christmas tree now being a global phenomena, the decorations and traditions of the Christmas tree is as varied as people themselves...
I for one, am a fan of the traditional Victorian tree...with the traditional decorations that I grew up with in Norway! And I love the current trend in Scandinavia of minimal decorations on a sparse tree.(see top picture)

My family tradition in Norway is to decorate the tree the night before Christmas eve. We listen to Some Christmas tunes whilst decorating the fir together as a family....accompanied with ginger bread and Mulled vine...

I would like to sign off this unusual post with some warm seasons greetings:

I wish you all a very merry Christmas, and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for popping by!
 Although I am officially taking my holiday now, I will probably post the odd report (or two..) from our Christmas celebrations in Norway....maybe some pictures of our Christmas tree??

xxx
June



PS! If you want to learn more about the history of the Christmas tree , I found these articles informative: the origins of the Christmas tree
Christmas archives
      A Victorian Christmas



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