How did christmas tree tradition start
The Real History of Christmas Trees
Many people who celebrate Christmas have already decorated their own evergreens this year, but there’s a new layer of meaning to the demand for Christmas trees during the continuing pandemic. As the New York Times reported in 2020, some people have used them to spruce up their homes and promote holiday cheer in a year when it’s especially needed amid isolating lockdowns and COVID-19 fears.
Shortages of Christmas trees and price hikes have also become somewhat of a holiday tradition in recent years. Here’s a look at how Christmas trees — both real and artificial — became such a popular holiday tradition in the first place.
The Origins of Christmas Trees
Records of using greenery to celebrate the holidays predate widespread use of the phrase “Christmas tree.” Rural English church records from the 15th and 16th centuries indicate that holly and ivy were bought in the winter — hence the British carol “The Holly and the Ivy. ” Private houses and streets were also decorated with greenery at this time, according to Judith Flanders’ Christmas: A Biography. Flanders posits that a precursor to the Christmas tree can be seen in the pole that parishes would decorate with holly and ivy, like a winter Maypole; one account describes a storm in London that knocked over a poll that’s described as “for disport of Christmas to the people.”
A lot of myths surround the origins of Christmas trees. One legend says that Martin Luther, who catalyzed the Protestant Reformation, believed that pine trees represented the goodness of God. Another myth popular in the 15th century tells the story of St. Boniface, who in the 8th century thwarted a pagan human sacrifice under an oak tree by cutting down that tree; a fir tree grew in its place, with its branches representing Christ’s eternal truth. Some versions of this St. Boniface legend say he cut down the new fir tree and hung it upside down, which is believed to have led to the tradition of trees being hung upside down to represent the Holy Trinity — sometimes with an apple wedged at the point instead of a star. All of these stories may have helped the Christmas tradition spread.
But the real origins of Christmas trees appear to be rooted in present-day Germany during the Middle Ages.
In 1419, a guild in Freiburg put up a tree decorated with apples, flour-paste wafers, tinsel and gingerbread. In “Paradise Plays” that were performed to celebrate the feast day of Adam and Eve, which fell on Christmas Eve, a tree of knowledge was represented by an evergreen fir with apples tied to its branches. Flanders finds documentation of trees decorated with wool thread, straw, apples, nuts and pretzels.
The oldest Christmas tree market is thought to have been located just over the southwestern German border in Strasbourg in Alsace (which was back then part of the Rhineland, now in present-day France), where unadorned Christmas trees were sold during the 17th century as Weihnachtsbaum, German for Christmas tree. Flanders says the “first decorated indoor tree” was recorded in 1605, in Strasbourg, decorated with roses, apples, wafers and other sweets, according to her research.
Demand for Christmas trees was so high in the 15th century that laws were passed in Strasbourg cracking down on people cutting pine branches. Ordinances throughout the region of Alsace limited each household to one tree in the 1530s.
How Christmas trees got popular in U.S.
References to Christmas trees in private homes or establishments in North America date back to the late 18th century and early 19th century. Flanders mentions a reference to a pine tree in North Carolina in 1786. In 1805, a school for American Indians run by Moravian missionaries sent students “to fetch a small green tree for Christmas.” Similar examples pop up in the first half of the 19th century in the Midwest and further West, such as the German immigrants in Texas who decorated trees with moss, cotton, pecans, red pepper swags and popcorn.
But the image of a decorated Christmas tree with presents underneath has a very specific origin: an engraving of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and their children gathering around a Christmas tree, eyeing the presents underneath, published in the Illustrated London News in 1848. The premier women’s magazine in America back then, Godey’s Lady’s Book, reprinted a version of the image a couple of years later as “The Christmas Tree.”
Illustrations of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and their children gathered around their Christmas tree helped popularize this tradition in the U.S.
“This single image cemented the Christmas tree in the popular consciousness, so much so that by 1861, the year of Albert’s death, it was firmly believed that this German prince had transplanted the custom to England with him when he married,” writes Flanders.
The tradition of gigantic Christmas trees in public spaces seems to be an American one that dates back to the late 19th century. The electricity lobby pushed for the first “National Christmas Tree” at the White House as a publicity stunt for the glories of electricity: a nearly 60-ft.-tall balsam fir tree covered in 2,500 light bulbs. A 20-ft.-tall Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center first went up in 1931 when the building was still under construction; by putting so many people unemployed during the Great Depression back to work, the tree became a symbol of hope.
The changing Christmas tree
In December 1964, TIME magazine heralded a new Christmas trend: fake trees.
The Polyvinyl versions looked more realistic than ever before, and they made up about 35% of the $155 million Christmas tree business in the U.S., according to an article headlined “And a Profit In A Polyvinyl Tree.”
Fifty years later, artificial trees still dominate the Christmas tree industry. Of the roughly 95 million American households with Christmas trees in 2018, 82% of the trees were artificial and 18% were real, according to a Nielsen survey. The reasons for this ratio are many. Climate change has made trees more difficult to grow. Farmers planted fewer trees during the Great Recession, and in general, trees take 7 to 10 years to grow. And there are even shortages of the farmers who grow them, as they age out of the business. Artificial trees are also hailed as having a lower environmental impact than buying trees, when the transporting them to retail outlets is factored in.
But the National Christmas Tree Association is appealing to those same environmentally conscious consumers by arguing that real trees support local economies — they are grown in the U.S. and in Canada, while many plastic trees are manufactured in China — and that real trees are renewable resources and recyclable, while the artificial kinds could contain some non-biodegradable parts.
Five decades ago, a professor in Montreal who was hard at work trying to develop a longer-lasting real tree explained to TIME the larger philosophical argument for preserving the tradition of real Christmas trees: “We live in an artificial environment. The Christmas tree is one of the few things left that is natural.”
Write to Olivia B. Waxman at [email protected]
The History of Christmas Trees
Evergreen trees (and other evergreen plants) have traditionally been used to celebrate winter festivals (pre-Christian/pagan and Christian) for thousands of years. Pre-Christian/Pagans used branches of evergreen trees to decorate their homes during the winter solstice, as it made them think of the spring to come. The Romans used Fir Trees to decorate their temples at the festival of Saturnalia. However, they were quite different to what we think of as Christmas Trees now.
Nobody is really sure when Fir trees were first used as Christmas trees. It probably began about 1000 years ago in Northern Europe.
Christmas Trees might well have started out as 'Paradise Trees' (branches or wooden frames decorated with apples). These were used in medieval German Mystery or Miracle Plays that were acted out in front of Churches during Advent and on Christmas Eve. In early church calendars of saints, 24th December was Adam and Eve's day. The Paradise Tree represented the Garden of Eden. It was often paraded around the town before the play started, as a way of advertising the play. The plays told Bible stories to people who could not read.
Christmas Trees as they came to be now started around the late 1400s into the 1500s. In what's now Germany (was the Holy Roman Empire then), the Paradise Tree had more decorations on it (sometimes communion wafers, cherries and later pastry decorations of stars, bells, angels, etc. were added) and it even got a new nickname the 'Christbaum' or 'Christ Tree'.
Some early Christmas Trees, across many parts of northern Europe, were cherry or hawthorn plants (or a branch of the plant) that were put into pots and brought inside so they would hopefully flower at Christmas time. If you couldn't afford a real plant, people made pyramids of woods and they were decorated to look like a tree with paper, apples and candles. It's possible that the wooden pyramid trees were meant to be like Paradise Trees. Sometimes they were carried around from house to house, rather than being displayed in a home.
Some trees (or at least small tops of them or branches of fir trees) were hung from the ceiling, mainly in some parts of Germany, some Slavic countries and parts of Poland. This might have been to save space or they just looked nice hanging from the rafters! (If you have lighting hooks on the ceiling, they would also be an obvious place to hang things from. )
The first documented use of a tree at Christmas and New Year celebrations is argued between the cities of Tallinn in Estonia and Riga in Latvia! Both claim that they had the first trees; Tallinn in 1441 and Riga in 1510. Both trees were put up by the 'Brotherhood of Blackheads' which was an association of local unmarried merchants, ship owners, and foreigners in Livonia (what is now Estonia and Latvia).
Little is known about either tree apart from that they were put in the town square, were danced around by the Brotherhood of Blackheads and were then set on fire. This is like the custom of the Yule Log. The word used for the 'tree' could also mean a mast or pole, tree might have been like a 'Paradise Tree' or a tree-shaped wooden candelabra rather than a 'real' tree.
In the town square of Riga, the capital of Latvia, there is a plaque which is engraved with "The First New Year's Tree in Riga in 1510", in eight languages.
A picture from Germany in 1521 which shows a tree being paraded through the streets with a man riding a horse behind it. The man is dressed a bishop, possibly representing St. Nicholas.
In 1584, the historian Balthasar Russow wrote about a tradition, in Riga, of a decorated fir tree in the market square where the young men “went with a flock of maidens and women, first sang and danced there and then set the tree aflame”. There's a record of a small tree in Breman, Germany from 1570. It is described as a tree decorated with "apples, nuts, dates, pretzels and paper flowers". It was displayed in a 'guild-house' (the meeting place for a society of business men in the city).
The first person to bring a Christmas Tree into a house, in the way we know it today, may have been the 16th century German preacher Martin Luther. A story is told that, one night before Christmas, he was walking through the forest and looked up to see the stars shining through the tree branches. It was so beautiful, that he went home and told his children that it reminded him of Jesus, who left the stars of heaven to come to earth at Christmas. So he brought a tree into his house and decorated it with candles to represent the stars.
Some people say this is the same tree as the 'Riga' tree, but it isn't! The story about Martin Luther seems to date to about 1536 and Riga tree originally took place a couple of decades earlier.
The custom of having Christmas trees could well have travelled along the Baltic sea, from Latvia to Germany. In the 1400s and 1500s, the countries which are now Germany and Latvia were them part of two larger empires which were neighbors.
Another story says that St. Boniface of Crediton (a village in Devon, UK) left England in the 8th century and traveled to Germany to preach to the pre-Christian/pagan German tribes and convert them to Christianity. He is said to have come across a group of pre-Christian/pagans about to sacrifice a young boy while worshipping an oak tree in honour of Thor. In anger, and to stop the sacrifice, St. Boniface cut down the oak tree and, to his amazement, a young fir tree sprang up from the roots of the oak tree. St. Boniface took this as a sign of the Christian faith and his followers decorated the tree with candles so that St. Boniface could preach to the pre-Christian/pagans at night. St Boniface was certainly involved in spreading Christianity in parts of Germany, although the legends of the tree seems to have started several centuries later and they're not mentioned in the early writings about St Boniface.
Haing Trees upside down has also been connected with St. Boniface. One story/theory says that he used the 'triangle' shape of an upside down fir tree to help explain the trinity in the Christian faith (God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit). Being upside down it that looked a bit like a cross and so also helped to explain the crucifixion.
There is another legend, from Germany, about how the Christmas Tree came into being, it goes:
Once on a cold Christmas Eve night, a forester and his family were in their cottage gathered round the fire to keep warm. Suddenly there was a knock on the door. When the forester opened the door, he found a poor little boy standing on the door step, lost and alone. The forester welcomed him into his house and the family fed and washed him and put him to bed in the youngest sons own bed (he had to share with his brother that night!). The next morning, Christmas Morning, the family were woken up by a choir of angels, and the poor little boy had turned into Jesus, the Christ Child. The Christ Child went into the front garden of the cottage and broke a branch off a Fir tree and gave it to the family as a present to say thank you for looking after him. So ever since them, people have remembered that night by bringing a Christmas Tree into their homes!
In Germany, the first Christmas Trees were decorated with edible things, such as gingerbread and gold covered apples. In 1605 an unknown German wrote: "At Christmas they set up fir trees in the parlours of Strasbourg and hang thereon roses cut out of many-colored paper, apples, wafers, gold foil, sweets, etc. ".
Some other trees were used in different parts of Germany, such as box or Yew. In the duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz it was common to decorate just a branch of a yew tree.
At first, a figure of the Baby Jesus was put on the top of the tree. Over time it changed into a star like the Wise Men saw or an angel/fairy that told the shepherds about Jesus. The 'angel' might also might have started as a version of the 'Christkind' which translates as 'The Christ Child' but is normally shown as a little angel figure with blond hair!
The first Christmas Tree in the UK was probably set-up by Queen Charlotte, the German wife of King George III. Queen Charlotte grew up in Mecklenburg-Strelitz and in the 1790s there are records of her having a yew branch in Kew Palace or Windsor Castle. She helped to decorate it herself and it became a popular event for the royal court. In 1800 she had a full yew tree set-up at the Queen’s Lodge in Windsor for a children's party for rich and noble families. Dr John Watkins, who went to the party described the tree like this: "...from the branches of which hung bunches of sweetmeats, almonds and raisins in papers, fruits and toys, most tastefully arranged; the whole illuminated by small wax candles.". And "...after the company had walked round and admired the tree, each child obtained a portion of the sweets it bore, together with a toy, and then all returned home quite delighted.".
Soon having a tree had become popular amongst some rich families. Queen Charlotte died in 1818 and by then, having a Christmas Tree was a tradition among much of the upper classes.
There's no mention of a Christmas Tree in 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens, which was published in 1843.
They became very popular throughout the country from the mid 1840s, when reports of 'the Royal tree' were printed in newspapers. In 1848, a drawing of "The Queen's Christmas tree at Windsor Castle" was published in the Illustrated London News. It showed Queen Victoria, her German Husband Prince Albert and their young children around a tree which was set-up on a table. The drawing was republished in Godey's Lady's Book, Philadelphia in December 1850 (but they removed the Queen's crown and Prince Albert's moustache to make it look 'American'!).
The publication of the drawing helped Christmas Trees become popular in the UK and USA.
In Victorian times, the tree would have been decorated with candles to represent stars. In many parts of Europe, candles are still used to decorate Christmas trees.
Christmas Tree 'skirts' started as Christmas Tree 'carpets'. They were made from heavy fabric, often decorated and with fancy frills around the edges, and were used either on the floor, or on tables, and went under the trees and their stands - rather than 'around' them. They were used to catch the needles from the trees and also protect the floor or table tops from dripping wax coming from the candles on the trees.
In Germany in the early/mid 1800s it was also 'fashionable' to have a forest scene and/or a nativity scene under trees (especially if the trees were placed on tables) and so these scenes also stood on the Tree carpets.
At this point trees were either normally put in pots (if they still had roots on them) or they were attached to a larger piece of wood or other heavy support (if they'd been cut) and so the scenes help to hide these.
In the 1860s proper metal tree holders, for cut trees, started being made. If you were rich, you could get them in very fancy shapes - and some even had music boxes in them, so they 'plinked' Christmas tunes!
Less expensive tree holders also became available and were made out of cheaper metals (and they also didn't look so good), so the 'carpets' became smaller and were also put 'around' the tree holders and became the Christmas tree skirts that we have today.
Lead and glass decorations started being made in the 1860s and 1870s. Some of the first glass decorations were apples - and that's probably where round, red, baubles on Christmas Trees comes from! Frank Woolworth started selling glass ornaments in his stores in the USA in 1880.
Tinsel and The Legend of the Christmas Spider
Tinsel was first created in Nuremberg, Germany in the 1878 when thin strips of silver foil were sold as 'Icicles'. In 1880 'angel hair, made from spun glass was sold. The first 'tinsel' garlands were sold in the 1890s from silver plated copper wire. But when plastic/man made tinsel was invented, it became very popular as it was much cheaper than metal tinsel and also lighter to go on the tree!
There are also folk stories about how tinsel was created - by The Christmas Spider!
These tales seem to have started in Eastern Germany, Poland or Ukraine but are also told in parts of Finland and Scandinavia. The stories are now also popular in other countries such as the USA; although I live in the UK and most people in my country have never heard of the story/legend!
All the versions of the story involve a poor family who can't afford to decorate a Tree for Christmas (in some versions the tree grew from a pine cone in their house, in others the family have bought a tree into the house). When the children go to sleep on Christmas Eve a spider covers the tree in cobwebs. Then on Christmas morning the cobwebs are magically turned into silver and gold strands which decorate the tree!
Some versions of the story say that it's the light of the sun which changed the cobwebs into silver and gold but other versions say it's St Nicholas / Santa Claus / Father Christmas / das Christkind which made the magic happen.
In parts of Germany, Poland, and Ukraine it's meant to be good luck to find a spider or a spider's web on your Christmas Tree. Spider's web Christmas Tree decorations are also popular in Ukraine. They're called 'pavuchky' (which means 'little spider') and the decorations are normally made of paper and silver wire. You might even put an artificial spider's web on your tree!
Christmas Tree Lights
There are a few different claims as to who invented popularised the first strings of 'electric' Christmas Tree lights. In 1880, the famous inventor Thomas Edison put some of his new electric light bulbs around his office. And in 1882 Edward Johnson, who was a colleague of Edison, hand-strung 80 red, white and blue bulbs together and put them on his tree in his New York apartment (there were two additional strings of 28 lights mounted from the ceiling!). The lights were about the size of a walnut.
In 1890 the Edison company published a brochure offering lighting services for Christmas. In 1900 another Edison advert offered bulbs which you could rent, along with their lighting system, for use over Christmas! There are records in a diary from 1891 where settlers in Montana used electric lights on a tree. However, most people couldn't easily use electric tree lights at this time as electricity wasn't widely installed in homes. But rich people liked to show off with lights installed just for Christmas, this would have cost about $300 per tree then, more than $2000 money today!
Electric tree lights first because widely known in the USA in 1895 when President Grover Cleveland has the tree in the White House decorated with lights as his young daughters liked them! The tradition of the National Christmas Tree on the White House lawn started in 1923 with President Calvin Coolidge.
In the December 1901 edition of "The Ladies' Home Journal", there was an advert for "Edison Miniature Lamps" which boasted 'no smoke, smell or grease'; and you could buy or rent the lights. In 1903 there was an advert from Edisons with Christmas lights called festoons - which had eight lights per 'festoon'. Sets of three festoons (so 24 lights) cost $12 or you could rent the lights from $1.50. This was still quite expensive, but much cheaper than $300.
Another claim to the first widespread sale of strings of lights comes from Ralph Morris, an American telephonist. In 1908, he used telephone wire to string together small bulbs from a telephone exchange and decorated a table top tree with them. Leavitt Morris, the son of Ralph, wrote an article in 1952 for the Christian Science Monitor, about his father inventing Christmas Tree lights, as he was un-aware of the Edison lights.
In 1885 a hospital in Chicago burned down because of candles on a Christmas Tree. In 1908 insurance companies in the USA tried to get a law made that would ban candles from being used on Christmas Trees because of the many fires they had caused. However, people still used candles to light Christmas Trees and there were more fires.
In 1917, a fire from Christmas Tree candles in New York, gave a teenager called Albert Sadacca an idea. His family came from Spain and made novelty wicker bird cages that lit up. Albert thought of using the lights in long strings and also suggested painting the bulbs bright colors like red and green. In the following years, he and his brothers formed the NOMA Electric Company, which became a very famous name in Christmas lights.
The most lights lit at the same time on a Christmas tree is 194,672 and was done by Kiwanis Malmedy / Haute Fagnes Belgium in Malmedy, Belgium, on 10 December 2010!
Many towns and villages have their own Christmas Trees. One of the most famous is the tree in Trafalgar Square in London, England, which is given to the UK by Norway every year as a 'thank you' present for the help the UK gave Norway in World War II. The White House in the USA has had a big tree on the front lawn since the 1920s.
The record for the most Christmas trees chopped down in two minutes is 27 and belongs to Erin Lavoie from the USA. She set the record on 19th December 2008 on the set of Guinness World Records: Die GroBten Weltrekorde in Germany.
Artificial Christmas Trees really started becoming popular in the early 20th century. In the Edwardian period Christmas Trees made from colored ostrich feathers were popular at 'fashionable' parties. Around 1900 there was even a short fashion for white trees - so if you thought colored trees are a new invention they're not! Over the years artificial trees have been made from feathers, papier mâché, metal, glass, and many different types of plastic.
According to The Guinness World Records, the tallest cut Christmas tree was a 67.36m (221 ft) Douglas fir setup at the Northgate Shopping Center in Seattle, Washington, USA, in December 1950. The tallest artificial Christmas tree was 72.1m (236.5ft) tall and was made by the Arjuna Ranatunga Social Services (Sri Lanka), in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on 24 December 2016.
In many countries, different trees are used as Christmas trees. In New Zealand a tree called the 'Pohutakawa' that has red flowers is sometimes used and in India, Banana or Mango trees are sometimes decorated.
You can decorate an online Christmas Tree in the fun section of the site!
how it appeared in Russia, photographs and paintings, traditions of decorating spruce.
Publications of the Traditions section
Today it is difficult to imagine a New Year's holiday without snow and spruce. But a few centuries ago, an evergreen tree was not an attribute of the New Year, and the holiday itself was celebrated in Russia in September.
The tradition of decorating the Christmas tree is known from Celtic traditions. The ancient Slavs dressed up an oak or a birch instead of a Christmas tree.
In Europe, the tradition of celebrating the New Year with a green beauty began in Germany with an ancient German legend about trees blooming magnificently during the winter cold. Soon the decoration of Christmas trees became fashionable and spread to many countries of the Old World. In order to avoid mass deforestation, in the 19th century, artificial spruces began to be produced in Germany.
Old Christmas card
Sergey Korovin. Christmas
The New Year tradition came to Russia on the eve of 1700, during the reign of Peter I, who was ordered to switch to a new chronology (from the Nativity of Christ) from January 1, 1700 and to celebrate the New Year on January 1, and not September 1st. The decree said: “... On large and passing streets, noble people and at houses of deliberate spiritual and worldly rank in front of the gates, make some decorations from trees and branches of pine and juniper ... and meager people, each at least a tree or a branch on the gate or over the temple [ house] to put his own ... "
After the death of the tsar, the prescriptions remained only regarding the decoration of drinking establishments, which continued to be decorated with Christmas trees before the New Year. These trees were used to identify taverns. The trees stood near the establishments until the next year, on the eve of which the old Christmas trees were replaced with new ones.
Heinrich Manizer. Christmas tree auction
Alexey Chernyshev. Christmas tree in the Anichkov Palace
The first public Christmas tree was installed in the building of the Ekaterininsky railway station (now Moscow) in St. Petersburg only in 1852.
At different times, Christmas trees were decorated in different ways: first with fruits, real and artificial flowers to create the effect of a flowering tree. Later, the decorations became fabulous: gilded cones, surprise boxes, sweets, nuts, and burning Christmas candles. Soon handmade toys were added: children and adults made them from wax, cardboard, cotton and foil. And at the end of the 19th century, wax candles were replaced by electric garlands.
During World War I, Emperor Nicholas II declared the Christmas tree tradition "enemy". After the October Revolution, the ban was lifted, but in 19In 26, the power of the workers and peasants again liquidated the "Christmas tree" tradition, considering it to be bourgeois.
New Year tree in the Hall of Columns. 1950s Photo chronicle TASS
New Year tree in the Hall of Columns. 1950s Newsreel TASS
New Year tree in the Kremlin Palace of Congresses. Photo: N. Akimov, L. Porter / Newsreel TASS
Only in 1938, a huge 15-meter Christmas tree with ten thousand decorations and toys appeared in Moscow, in the Hall of Columns of the House of the Unions. It began to be installed annually and held there for children's New Year's holidays, called "Christmas trees". From 19In 1976, the main New Year's tree of the country was the tree installed in the State Kremlin Palace.
- How the New Year was celebrated in the institutes of noble maidens
- The history of Christmas decorations in Russia
- Winter holidays in the Romanovs' house
And its decoration with glass balls, toys and paper garlands is one of the main family ceremonies.
The Christmas tree holiday was originally intended for children and was to remain forever in the memory of the child as a day of mercy and kindness. The festive tree was prepared by adults without fail in secret from children. And to this day, the New Year's sacrament and gifts surprisingly appearing under the tree remain the main magic of childhood.
Preparing for the celebration of the New Year. Photo: V. Matytsin / ITAR-TASS
Kids in New Year's hats near the Christmas tree. Photo: T. Gladskikh / Lori photo bank
Publications of the Traditions section
History of the tradition of decorating the Christmas tree
History of the tradition of decorating the Christmas tree .2020
The history of the tradition of decorating the Christmas tree
The custom of decorating the Christmas tree came to us from Germany. There is a legend that the beginning of the tradition of decorating the Christmas tree was laid by the German reformer Martin Luther.
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The custom of decorating the New Year tree came to us from Germany. There is a legend that the tradition of decorating the Christmas tree was started by the German reformer Martin Luther. In 1513, returning home on Christmas Eve, Luther was fascinated and delighted with the beauty of the stars that strewed the firmament so densely that it seemed as if even the crowns of the trees sparkled with stars. At home, he put a Christmas tree on the table and decorated it with candles, and placed a star on top in memory of the star of Bethlehem, which showed the way to the cave where Jesus was born.
It is also known that in the 16th century in Central Europe on Christmas night it was customary to place a small beech tree in the middle of the table, decorated with small apples boiled in honey, plums, pears and hazelnuts.
In the second half of the 17th century, it was already common in German and Swiss homes to complement the decoration of the Christmas meal not only with deciduous, but also with coniferous trees. The main thing is that it should be a toy size. At first, small Christmas trees were hung from the ceiling along with sweets and apples, and only later the custom was established to decorate one large Christmas tree in the guest room.
In the 18th-19th centuries, the tradition of decorating a Christmas tree spread not only throughout Germany, but also appeared in England, Austria, the Czech Republic, Holland, and Denmark. In America, Christmas trees also appeared thanks to German emigrants. At first, Christmas trees were decorated with candles, fruits and sweets, later toys made of wax, cotton wool, cardboard, and then glass became the custom.
In Russia, the tradition of decorating the New Year tree appeared thanks to Peter I. Peter, who was visiting his German friends for Christmas when he was young, was pleasantly surprised to see a strange tree: it looks like a spruce, but instead of cones, there are apples and sweets on it. The future king was amused. Having become king, Peter I issued a decree to celebrate the New Year, as in enlightened Europe.
It was instructed: "... On the large and passing streets, noble people and at the houses of the deliberate spiritual and worldly rank in front of the gate to make some decorations from trees and branches of pine and juniper . ..".
After Peter's death, the decree was forgotten, and the Christmas tree became a common attribute of the New Year only a century later.
In 1817, Grand Duke Nikolai Pavlovich married the Prussian princess Charlotte, baptized in Orthodoxy under the name of Alexander. The princess convinced the court to adopt the custom of decorating the New Year's table with bouquets of spruce branches. In 1819In 1852, at the insistence of his wife, Nikolai Pavlovich put up a New Year tree in the Anichkov Palace for the first time, and in 1852 in St. Petersburg, a public Christmas tree was decorated for the first time in the Ekaterininsky (now Moscow) station.
New Year's hype began in the cities: expensive Christmas decorations were ordered from Europe, children's New Year's parties were held in rich houses.
The image of the Christmas tree fits well into the Christian religion. Christmas decorations, sweets and fruits symbolized the gifts brought to the little Christ. And the candles were reminiscent of the illumination of the monastery where the Holy Family stayed. In addition, an ornament was always hung on the top of the tree, which symbolized the Star of Bethlehem, which rose with the birth of Jesus and showed the way to the Magi. As a result, the tree has become a symbol of Christmas.
During the First World War, Emperor Nicholas II considered the tradition of decorating the Christmas tree "enemy" and categorically forbade it.
After the revolution, the ban was lifted. The first public Christmas tree under Soviet rule was held at the Mikhailovsky Artillery School on December 31, 1917 in St. Petersburg.
Since 1926, decorating a Christmas tree has already been considered a crime: the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks called the custom of setting up a so-called Christmas tree anti-Soviet. In 1927, at the XV Party Congress, Stalin announced the weakening of anti-religious work among the population. An anti-religious campaign began. Party Conference 1929 years canceled the "Christian" Sunday: the country switched to "six days", it was forbidden to celebrate Christmas.
It is believed that the rehabilitation of the Christmas tree began with a small note in the Pravda newspaper, published on December 28, 1935. It was about an initiative to organize a good Christmas tree for children for the New Year. The note was signed by the second secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine Postyshev. Stalin agreed.
In 1935, the first New Year's children's party was organized with a dressed-up forest beauty. And on the eve of the new 19For 38 years, a huge 15-meter Christmas tree with 10 thousand decorations and toys was placed in the Hall of Columns of the House of Unions, which has become traditional since then and was later called the main Christmas tree of the country. Since 1976, the Christmas tree in the Kremlin Palace of Congresses (since 1992 - the State Kremlin Palace) has been considered the main Christmas tree. Instead of Christmas, they began to put up a Christmas tree for the New Year and called it New Year's.
At first, Christmas trees were decorated in the old fashioned way with sweets and fruits. Then the toys began to reflect the era: pioneers with bugles, faces of members of the Politburo. During the war - pistols, paratroopers, ambulance dogs, Santa Claus with a machine gun. They were replaced by toy cars, airships with the inscription "USSR", snowflakes with a hammer and sickle. Under Khrushchev, toy tractors, corn cobs, and hockey players appeared. Then - cosmonauts, satellites, characters of Russian fairy tales.
There are many styles of decorating the Christmas tree these days. The most traditional of them is decorating the Christmas tree with colorful glass toys, electric light bulbs and tinsel. In the last century, natural trees began to be replaced by artificial ones, some of them very skillfully imitated living spruces and decorated in the usual way, others were stylized, not requiring decorations.