How to light trees for christmas
How to Wrap Trees With Outdoor Lights
Lisa Hallett Taylor
Lisa Hallett Taylor
Lisa Hallett Taylor is an expert in architecture and landscape design who has written more than 1,000 articles about pool, patio, garden, and home improvement over 12 years. She has a bachelor's degree in Environmental Design and is certified in fine and decorative arts appraisal.
Learn more about The Spruce's Editorial Process
Updated on 10/12/22
The Spruce / Nanor Zinzalian
In This Article
Tips for Hanging Tree Lights
Frequently Asked Questions
Trees decorated with light strings always look festive for the holidays, and they can be just as fun and magical any other time of the year. During warm weather, there's nothing more inviting than a comfortable outdoor space bejeweled with twinkling lights.
Lighting is suitable for most types of trees, including evergreens, deciduous trees, palm trees, and even yucca. Often, bare leafless trees provide the ideal framework for hanging lights, especially horizontal-spreading varieties. Palm tree trunks wrapped with white or red lights show off their vertical, upright forms, drawing the eye upward toward the night sky.
The best outdoor lights to use are LED lights. LEDs are not only 75 percent more energy-efficient than standard incandescent bulbs, they also last many times longer. LED lights cost quite a bit more than incandescent, but because LEDs cost less to run, they pay for themselves long before they burn out.
We Tested the Best Outdoor Solar Lights to Illuminate Your Property
For the color of the lights, warm white LEDs provide a nice, warm glow reminiscent of the incandescents that everyone loves (and with which so many traditionalists have trouble parting). Cool white offers a bluish glow, and colored lights are either multicolored or one color. White is universal and is suitable for any time of the year. Colored lights usually are best for the holidays. In any case, it looks best if you choose the same lights in each color, such as all warm or all cool whites.
Watch Now: How to Wrap Trees With Outdoor Lights
Equipment / Tools
- Outdoor-rated extension cord
- Cardboard (optional)
- Outdoor light strands
- Twine or plant tape (optional)
Choose the Trees for Lighting
Select the tree or trees you would like to light up. Start with one that creates a natural focal point in your landscape. Ideally, it will also have an interesting form and elegant branches that will look especially striking when illuminated. Odd shapes of branches and limbs can become magical in the evening when electrified with twinkling lights.
A very large tree can have a lot of "wow" factor, but the bigger (and taller) it is, the more lights it will need. What you don't want is a big tree that is sparsely lighted, so choose the right size for the amount of lights you have or are willing to buy.
The Spruce / Nanor Zinzalian
Test the Light Strands
Test each strand of lights by plugging it in and making sure all of the lights are working. It's important to do this before hanging the lights, especially if you won't have the lights on while you work. You don't want to put up all of the lights only to discover that a strand in the middle is on the fritz.
If desired, connect multiple light strings (after testing them) by plugging them together end-to-end. Wind the resulting long string around a flat piece of cardboard. This makes it easy to handle a long string without having to fight a tangled mess.
The Spruce / Nanor Zinzalian
Lay Out the Cord
Extend an outdoor-rated extension cord to the base of the tree. Because the cord will be outdoors and may get wet, it must have GFCI (ground-fault circuit-interrupter) protection to protect against shock hazards. To ensure protection, plug the cord into a GFCI outlet or use a GFCI-protected outdoor cord.
Decide where the visible base of the tree is—this is the point where the tree becomes visible from the street or from the house. In addition, tall grasses, rocks, and other landscaping features might cover or obscure the very bottom of the trunk. Walk to the curb or out to the street, and make a mental note as to where the trunk is visible. Position the cord end at this point. If desired, you can wrap the cord around the base of the tree to secure it.
Plug the first strand of lights into the extension cord. You can plug the cord into the outlet, if desired, or wait until you're finished.
The Spruce / Nanor Zinzalian
Use the Right Extension Cord Gauge for the Job
Wind Up the Trunk
Begin wrapping the lights around the tree's trunk, moving upward with each winding. To ensure even spacing, check the distance between windings with your hand. Use about four fingers to get consistent spacing between each wrap around the tree trunk. Aim for uniform spacing to make the finished project look its best.
The Spruce / Nanor Zinzalian
Run Up and Down the Limbs
Wrap the lights up each limb or large branch, making sure you have several extra feet of string. Space the wraps about two hands (eight fingers) apart. When you reach the end of the limb, reverse direction and wind the string back down, winding between the upward wraps so that the resulting spacing is one hand width.
The Spruce / Nanor Zinzalian
Use a Ladder
Use a ladder to reach high areas. Never climb a tree to hang lights. You can use a freestanding stepladder for relatively low heights, but for higher areas, use an extension ladder. Always follow standard ladder safety procedures, making sure the ladder is evenly supported at the top and bottom and that it angles at about 75 degrees (15 degrees from vertical). If you need to climb more than about 6 feet high, have a helper hold the base of the ladder and to "spot" the lighting from the ground while you're up on the ladder.
The Spruce / Nanor Zinzalian
Secure the String
Secure the end of the light string, as needed, to complete the installation. You can simply tuck the end into a crook of branches to keep it from coming loose, or you can tie the string to the tree with a piece of natural twine or planting tape. Don't use metal wire, which could create a shock or fire hazard if the metal cuts through the light's wire insulation. You can also use a plastic zip tie, as long as you remember to cut it off before long. A strong zip tie could girdle the tree and cause damage if it's not removed.
The Spruce / Nanor Zinzalian
When determining how many lights or strands of lights to use, don't follow the old saying, "A little goes a long way." It just doesn't apply in this case. Depending on the circumference of the trunk, each wrap can easily use up 20 or 30 lights. And a tree that is wrapped only partway up its trunk simply does not look festive or complete. Plan and budget for lights accordingly. You can always start small and add more lights each year.
How to Hang Christmas Tree Lights
The job of stringing lights on your tree is no joke, and unless you have a team of elves to help you out, you're likely all on your own to figure out an easy way to put lights on a Christmas tree. And even though this tedious task can be a headache, oh, the rewards! That glow can downright take your breath away!
Chances are you've been hanging lights on your tree the way your parents did. But believe it or not, there are a few different ways to light a Christmas tree. Online and off, questions abound: Do you hang Christmas tree lights horizontally or vertically? Do you go top-to-bottom, or bottom-to-top? Do you put lights on a Christmas tree first? (For the record, we say definitely yes to this!)
Before you start doubting (or changing) your stringing technique, we've got some good news: There really is no right or wrong way to light your tree. If your method of outfitting your tree suits you, stick with it—you've got no reason to change!
Still, it never hurts to try something new, which is one reason we're sharing these tried-and-true Christmas lighting methods. Who knows? Maybe you'll find a more efficient way to tackle the annual task. Now get glowing!
Tip: Generally, plan for about 100 Christmas lights per foot; a 6-foot tree would get 600 lights.
How to Put Lights on a Christmas Tree Vertically
The vertical approach to hanging Christmas tree lights is a trend that started circulating a few years ago. This method ensures that the tree shines brightly, because the lights are more visible, as they are less likely to be covered up by branches. Bonus: It's a whole lot easier to take them down once the holiday's over!
- Plug in each strand of lights to make sure all the bulbs are in working order.
- Start with the plugless end of your lights at the top or bottom of the tree and let the lights lay vertically like a seam.
- Each time you reach the top or bottom, turn the lights back the other way until you have a sideways "S" pattern around the whole tree.
Tip: Hang shiny ornaments in the middle to help reflect the light for more depth.
How to Hang Christmas Tree Lights Horizontally
Hanging Christmas lights horizontally is the most widely used technique when it comes to decorating the tree. It's pretty self-explanatory, but if this is your first time hanging lights, you'll want to follow these directions:
- First, plug in each set of lights to make sure all the bulbs are working. (This will save you a lot of stress later.)
- Starting at the top or bottom of your tree (depending solely on preference), wrap the lights over and under the branches of the tree.
- You can mix things up by placing some lights "deeper" into the tree than others, and by alternating the patterns so that it looks more organic. Get creative with it, and have fun!
Tip: When you have to connect plugs, hide the eyesore by fastening the area to a branch with floral wire.
How to Hang Christmas Lights Top to Bottom
"I string my lights from top to bottom because your plug is at the end of the strand and closer to the bottom of the tree and outlet," says The Home Depot's director of trend and design Sarah Fishburne, making a solid case for this method. Plus, she says, if you run out of lights, it's easier to spread them out this way—and it's easier to add more lights to the bottom versus the top of the tree.
- Plug in the lights to make sure all the bulbs are working.
- Starting at the top of the tree, intertwine the lights on top of and under branches.
- Work your way down and around the tree, hanging lights in the back as well.
- When you reach the bottom, hide any extra lights behind the tree.
- If you want to add more lights, simply do another pass, starting again at the top and working your way down.
Tip: Make sure you wrap the lights loosely on each branch for the best overall affect.
How to Hang Christmas Lights Bottom to Top
The Home Depot's Senior Merchandising Director Kelie Charles goes bottom to top because she can plug the lights in first. "It makes it easier to see what the lit tree will look like as I'm stringing the lights," she says. Got extras? Just wind them back down. And if you run out, simply start a new string and run an extension cord down the back of the tree.
- Plug in the lights to make sure all the bulbs are working.
- Start at the bottom, zig zag Christmas tree lights through the tree in quadrants, section by section, versus around the tree.
- Place some lights deeper into the branches and place some closer to the front to create depth.
- Hide the lights' connectors by pushing it deep into the tree branches near the trunk.
- Once you reach the top, you can either tuck the extra lights into the back of the tree or run an extension cord down the back to the outlet.
Tip: Try to avoid any obvious pattern or spiral; you want the lights to look natural.
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Taysha MurtaughLifestyle Editor
Taysha Murtaugh was the Lifestyle Editor at CountryLiving.com.
Christmas Tree Traditions
By the New Year every home has a decorated Christmas tree and a lot of New Year accessories: a Christmas wreath, Christmas decorations - balls, garlands, figurines of Father Frost or Santa Claus and many other items.
The tradition of decorating the Christmas tree has its own history. Let's learn a little more about it... The custom of decorating a Christmas tree originated in Germany.
The Christmas tree in Germany was mastered by the middle of the 18th century.
At turn 19centuries, on the squares of German cities on Christmas Eve, large fir trees began to be installed. The final adoption of this custom by the Germans can be considered with the appearance of Christmas trees at Christmas markets.
On Christmas Eve, the Christmas tree installed in the house was decorated with sparkles and tinsel, lit with candles or lanterns. Under it or on the branches, gifts were laid out at first only for children, and later for other family members. The custom of lighting candles on the Christmas tree is very old.
Among the Germanic peoples, it was a custom to go to the forest on New Year's Eve, where the Christmas tree chosen for the ceremony was lit with candles and decorated with colored rags. Over time, spruce began to be cut down and brought into the house, where it was installed on the table. Lighted candles were attached to it, apples and sugar products were hung. The perception of spruce as a symbol of undying nature was influenced by the evergreen cover of this tree.
The custom mastered in Germany by the end of the 18th century began to spread to other European countries. The first to adopt the Christmas tree from the Germans were the inhabitants of northern European countries. The first information about the Christmas tree in Sweden dates back to the end of the 18th century, in Finland, Denmark and Norway - to the beginning of the 18th century.
Most of the peoples of Western Europe adopted the tradition of the Christmas tree only in the middle of the 19th century. Spruce gradually became an integral part of the family Christmas holiday, although the memory of its German origin remained for many years to come.
It is believed that the Christmas tree appeared in Paris in 1840 at the court of King Louis Philippe. However, this custom spread slowly in France. The first spruce was installed outside, not inside the room, so it could not be lit, for this reason it did not look very impressive.
England's first Christmas tree was erected in 1841 when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert. Then, at Windsor Castle, at the insistence of the prince, a feast was held with a decorated and lit spruce.
Soon every British family that was able to buy and decorate a Christmas tree began to imitate the royal house, and this custom spread and became as obligatory as roast goose and pudding.
In the December 1848 issue of the London newspaper The News, an illustration depicting the royal family at a Christmas tree was published, and a young Christmas tree about 8 feet high was given, with wax candles attached to its branches and small baskets filled with candies and other sweets. A small figure of an angel was placed on top of the spruce.
From then on, the English newspapers published stories about Christmas trees more and more often, and by the mid-1850s, working-class families also started decorating Christmas trees at Christmas.
The development of the Christmas tree in Russia proceeded rapidly. If at the beginning of the 1830s it was still spoken of as a “nice German idea”, then at the end of this decade it already “comes into the habit” in the houses of the St. Petersburg nobility, and over the next it becomes widely known in the capital. In the middle of the century, from St. Petersburg, the Christmas tree spread throughout Russia: in its provinces and county towns, and later - in noble estates. By the end of the century, the Christmas tree was fully accepted both in the city and on the estate.
The influx of Germans to St. Petersburg, where there were many of them from its very foundation, continued into the 19th century.
Naturally, immigrants from Germany brought with them their customs and traditions, which they carefully preserved and supported in their new place. So on the territory of Russia, the first Christmas trees appeared in the houses of St. Petersburg Germans.
It is believed that the first Christmas tree in the imperial family was installed in 1817 in Moscow, in the Kremlin (where the royal family spent the winter). Subsequently, this custom was repeated annually.
From the imperial family and the German houses of the capital, the custom of arranging a Christmas tree festival began to be mastered by noble families.
According to German tradition, the Christmas tree festival was considered a day of family celebration for children. Initially, the Christmas tree was arranged only for members of one family and was intended for children.
The intimacy and homeliness of the holiday with the Christmas tree was also maintained in Russian homes. Such “classic” Christmas trees, “German-style” Christmas trees, after the assimilation in Russia of the custom that came from Germany, in most Russian houses were organized according to a sustainable scenario.
At first, the presence of the Christmas tree in the house was limited to one evening.
The Christmas tree was prepared by adult members of the family and certainly secretly from the children. When organizing a holiday, adults were not much less worried than children. We prepared in advance, buying gifts, a Christmas tree and Christmas tree decorations.
Candles were attached to the branches of the tree, treats and decorations were hung, gifts were laid out under the tree, which, like the tree itself, were prepared in strict confidence. Before starting the children in the hall, candles were lit on the Christmas tree. Finally, the doors were opened and the children were let into the hall where the Christmas tree was installed.
When children entered the room with a decorated Christmas tree, admired it, looked at toys on it and sorted out their gifts, adults from the side looked at them with satisfaction and tenderness, watching the impression made on children and remembering the Christmas trees of their childhood.
All members of the family, big and small, took part in the Christmas tree celebration. The custom of holding a Christmas tree holiday has inevitably undergone changes over time.
In families where funds allowed and in whose houses there was enough space, already in the 1840s, instead of the traditionally small Christmas tree, large ones began to be installed. High, up to the ceiling, Christmas trees, wide and thick, were especially valued.
In the New Year's pagan spruce cult, the ancient Germans used to attach burning candles to the spruce, and decorate the branches with colored rags.
Ever since the spruce turned into a Christmas tree, the main feature of its decor has been lighting: candles lit on it symbolized the stars of Christmas night.
Then they began to hang fruits on the Christmas tree, primarily apples. In addition to apples, other fruits were hung on the Christmas tree: tangerines, nuts wrapped in foil, pears, grapes, as well as gingerbread and sweets.
Illumination of the Christmas tree with candles alone began to seem insufficient: a desire arose to make the fir tree as shiny, radiant, sparkling as possible, and therefore they began to hang it with tinsel, gimp (thin metal threads), sparkles and various shiny gizmos, which, thanks to candles, created a play of light and made her brighter.
The production of garlands, chains, tinsel made of thin foil, rain, sequins was carried out by special artels for the manufacture of Christmas tree decorations, which spread by the middle of 19century. The brighter the Christmas tree shone, the more beautiful and solemn it was considered.
As the Christmas tree holiday turned into social entertainment, Christmas decorations began to appear on the tree. At first, most of the glass jewelry was foreign-made. In Russia, their manufacture was gradually established, and already in the middle of the 19th century they began to make toys from cotton wool and papier-mâché.
Ever since the Christmas tree began to "Russify", acquiring a new mythology, when its connection with the forest arose, toys depicting forest animals (bunnies, squirrels, bears) have gained popularity. Then figurines of domestic animals appeared: dogs, cats, chickens, cockerels, etc., as well as characters from Russian folk tales. The Christmas tree “coming” from the forest was supposed to convey the mood of the winter forest, so it was sprinkled with sparkles that imitated hoarfrost, snowflakes cut out of paper.
Over time, on Christmas trees one could see balls, beads, garlands, stars, rigmarole, Christmas tree snow and rain, serpentine, confetti, candles, crackers, flags, rings, bells, flags, cones, baskets, houses, clowns, chimney sweeps, riders, horses, dolls, a cornucopia, apples, flowers, sweets, bagels, gingerbread, cookies, pretzels and boxes tied with a ribbon symbolizing gifts.
Of course, not every home Christmas tree was decorated so richly and variously, but candles, apples and dough products were always on it. Before Christmas, print media advertised sets of Christmas decorations.
Christmas decorations were not always limited to ornaments and toys. By the end of the 19th century, in wealthy houses, all kinds of decorations were sometimes placed at the foot of the Christmas tree, usually paintings of a winter forest. The Niva magazine in 1909 offers a variant of arrangement:
“A winter view, arranged under the tree or near it, is very suitable for a Christmas tree, completely removed and showered with shiny snow - cotton wool. The foot of the Christmas tree can be arranged as follows: a cross is laid into which the Christmas tree is embedded, with green moss, dry grass and Christmas tree branches, among which in some places you can put pebbles; then they set cardboard or cotton mushrooms with a small family, and if you put a plush hare among this green pile, which can very often be found among children's toys, then it will be very beautiful under the tree.
The rite of arranging and decorating the Christmas tree had its obligatory and stable features, but every year this rite was supplemented with innovations, which were explained by changes in life, fashion and conditions in which the Christmas tree was arranged.
When the Christmas tree was no longer prepared secretly from children, adults began to involve them in the manufacture of Christmas decorations. The process of decorating the Christmas tree has become a family tradition. Before Christmas, the children's bustle began, associated with the manufacture of Christmas tree decorations. Children themselves or with adults made lanterns, baskets, houses, flags and other toys.
From the memoirs of Elizaveta Rachinskaya:
“The Christmas tree was decorated again by the whole family. From Christmas Eve morning on the piano, on tables and chairs, on the windowsills and even right on the floor, light cardboard boxes appeared with nests inside, where birds of paradise, grandfather frosts, girls huddled in sawdust, in shavings, in silk paper, in cotton wool. blackies, bright multi-colored glass toys ... a bizarre, fantastic world of children's happiness, so fragile and so beautiful, so magically unreal and at the same time now, after many years, it seems to be the only real of everything that was once in life.
“When decorating the Christmas tree, the rules accepted once and for all were followed. In the depths, closer to the trunk, first Crimean apples were hung, shining through the dark needles with their pink barrels; then came the nuts, which were never allowed above the middle of the tree. The trunk and crosspiece, covered with cotton wool and sparkles, were entangled with gold and silver paper chains and chains of colored candies. At the bottom hung chocolate figurines of animals, birds, children and wonderful printed gingerbread with pictures, unforgettably delicious, without which not a single Christmas could do.
T.L. Sukhotina-Tolstaya recalls:
“In the evenings we all gathered around a round table under a lamp and set to work. Mom brought a large bag of walnuts, cherry glue dissolved in some vessel ... and each of us was given a brush and a notebook with thin gold and silver leaves that fluttered from every movement of air. We smeared the walnut with brushes, then put it on a golden piece of paper and carefully, barely touching it with our fingers, attached the piece of paper to the nut. Ready-made nuts were placed on a dish and then, when they dried, a pink ribbon in the form of a loop was glued to them with a pin so that a nut could be hung on a Christmas tree on this loop.
Irina Tokmakova recalls the Christmas trees of her childhood in the 1930s: “At that distant pre-war time, in our evenings, everyone – adults and children – gathered at a square dining table… The ceremony began. On the kerosene stove standing in the hallway ... starch paste was being boiled. When it cools down, pieces of cotton wool are thickly smeared with them. Cotton wool became pliable, and from it it was possible to fashion, for example, a carrot, a basket, mushrooms, whoever was more inquisitive, he even got a bunny or a chicken. When the paste dried up and the toy became hard, it was painted with school watercolors. Oh, how good the mushrooms were, placed in a basket on the green moss harvested since the summer.
In every house, in every family, their favorite look of the Christmas tree was fixed, which differed both in the appearance and style of its decoration, which reflected the family tradition, taste and character of family members.
Both abroad and in Russia, the recommendations for the arrangement of the Christmas tree outlined the general principles of its decoration - depending on the shape and size of the tree, as well as the possibilities of the room.
With the advent of electricity in some wealthy homes, instead of candles, garlands of electric bulbs began to be hung on the Christmas tree. Electric lighting was first used at the Christmas tree festival in the hall of the Noble Assembly in 1872. The fashion for lighting home Christmas trees with electric bulbs arose at the end of 19century.
By the end of the 19th century, the Christmas tree finally fit into both home festive interiors and the Christmas city landscape.
As before, first of all, the Christmas tree was prepared for children, but the excitement that arose around this holiday embraced people of any age.
The Christmas season changed the usual course of life, creating a festive atmosphere and mood. Christmas markets opened in the city. These Christmas tree markets, as well as shop windows and the revival reigning everywhere, completely transformed the city.
Materials used in the article:
"Russian tree. History, mythology, literature". Elena Dushechkina. - St. Petersburg: Publishing House of the European University in St. Petersburg, 2012. 360 p., ill.
Superstitions of Victorian England. Kouti E., Kharsa N. - M., CJSC Publishing House Tsentrpoligraf, 2011. - 474 p.
tree and holiday history, legends, facts | WikiDedmoroz.ru
Christmas tree is a coniferous tree that is decorated for the New Year, as well as a holiday named after it. In Russia, she is affectionately, as if alive, called the forest beauty. Her presence at the New Year's celebration is mandatory. The Christmas tree, as the most important attribute of the holiday, did not immediately become commonplace in our culture. Its fascinating history in Russia spans approximately 300 years.
The story of the Christmas tree is similar to that of Cinderella. For a long time, it did not evoke bright positive emotions in our ancestors. She is prickly, unkind, sprouting in uncomfortable swampy places. Coniferous branches cover the last path of a person going to another world.
Writers also did not favor the Christmas tree. I immediately recall “War and Peace” by L.N. Tolstoy. The writer, through a description of nature, conveys the inner state of his hero: “Look, the crushed dead fir trees are sitting, always lonely ...” But years will pass, and a miracle will happen. "Dead Spruce" will turn into a charming Cinderella. She, elegant, will come to the holiday and will give a lot of joy, happiness and cause genuine delight.
Legends of the Christmas tree
Before becoming an indispensable attribute of the New Year, the tree first took pride of place on the Christmas holiday. There are many legends in world culture that tell beautiful stories about how this happened. Let's take one of them.
After the birth of the Infant Christ in the cave of Bethlehem, trees from different parts of the earth came to bow to him. A local beautiful palm tree came, which proudly took first place. Then maples, birches, poplars, eucalyptus and other trees gathered from foreign countries. Finally, to distant Palestine, having traveled a long way, the modest northern Christmas tree reached the last. She stood in the shade of large trees, and she was not visible.
But suddenly, a real Christmas miracle happened. Dazzlingly beautiful stars began to fall from the sky to the earth. They landed on the northern guest and decorated it. So the tree, turning into Cinderella, became the most beautiful tree in the world. Since then, people have always decorated it for Christmas.
The emergence of the custom of decorating the Christmas tree in Germany
It has been established that the tradition of decorating the Christmas tree originates in Germany. This happens, according to researchers, in the XVI-XVII centuries. Who first suggested decorating a spruce tree is not known for certain. The opinion of researchers differs. Some believe that this happened in Alsace. It is known that the authorities of one of the cities instructed the forester to cut down the Christmas tree for them, and several decades later, written sources report that the custom has become general.
Another legend connects the appearance of the Christmas tree with the religious reformer Martin Luther, who began to install and decorate Christmas trees in his house. The authority of the religious figure was so great that many of his compatriots soon followed his example. An engraving has survived to this day, in which Martin Luther is depicted next to a decorated Christmas tree.
The new custom spread rapidly in Germany, and by the middle of the 18th century it was becoming ubiquitous. Christmas trees are decorated with flowers made of colored paper, gold foil, apples wrapped in gold and silver paper, sugar and other sweets are hung on the tree. In addition, candles are lit on the festive tree.
From Germany, the custom of the Christmas tree gradually spreads to other European countries, and soon crosses the ocean and is established in America.
Acquaintance with the Christmas tree in Russia
Since 1700, the inhabitants of Russia, according to the Decree of Peter the Great, decorated the facades of houses and courtyards with coniferous trees and branches. However, with the death of the king-transformer, the tradition gradually died out.
A separate article has been written about the decree of Peter the Great "On the celebration of the New Year".
Russian people saw the Christmas tree as an attribute of the Christmas holiday in the 20-30s of the XIX century. Many Germans lived in St. Petersburg at that time. It is through them that the first acquaintance with the new Christmas rite takes place. Moving to Russia, the former residents of Germany tried to preserve their home traditions.
The Emperor's wife Alexandra Fedorovna introduced the people of St. Petersburg to the Christmas tree for the first time. At first, she arranged home Christmas trees for members of her family, and in the 30s she began to invite representatives of the St. Petersburg nobility to the holiday. At the same time, society is aware that the Christmas tree is an overseas invention that has nothing to do with the Russian ritual tradition.
For example, in the works of A.S. Pushkin never mentions it. Apparently, the poet simply did not know about her. Recall, "Eugene Onegin" - "an encyclopedia of Russian life." The fifth chapter is devoted to a detailed description of the preparation of Christmas and Christmas divination. But not a word about the tree. Also does not remember the Christmas tree and M.Yu. Lermontov, but the action of his "Masquerade" takes place just on Christmas.
But all of a sudden, it seemed to break through. From the second half of the 40s, the Christmas tree gradually began to come into use of the wealthy part of St. Petersburg society, and by the middle of the 50s and 60s it occupied an important place on the Christmas holiday. From the capital, the Christmas tree is gradually spreading throughout Russia, conquering the estates of landowners and wealthy citizens in the provinces. The German idea is rapidly becoming a Russian Christmas custom.
One of the reasons for the rapid entry of the Christmas tree into the homes of Russian residents was the great popularity, one might even say, love for Hoffmann's Christmas tale "The Nutcracker". In 1839, the ode to the fairy tale was published as a separate book. Decades later, in 1892, the premiere of the ballet of the same name by P.I.
At the same time, for citizens of the common class, the Christmas tree remained inaccessible to entertainment. Sometimes the children of servants or peasants were invited to the homes of landowners or wealthy citizens so that they could admire the beauty of the forest and take part in the Christmas holiday.
How the Christmas tree was organized for children before 1917
The organization of the Christmas tree has always been shrouded in mystery. Parents believed that they were preparing a wonderful surprise for their children, which in fact was true.
It was believed that children should not see the Christmas tree ahead of time. Therefore, she was secretly carried into the house, installed in the largest room and began to dress up. Children were strictly forbidden to take part in this action. Various delicacies and decorations made of paper were hung on the branches, candles were always attached. Rich people could even hang real jewelry on the Christmas tree.
Just like now, gifts for children were placed under the Christmas tree: soldiers, horses, drums, toy dishes, dolls…
While parents and guests were removing the Christmas tree, the children were in a separate room; , they couldn't. It was not easy to be patient and withstand these bans. Moreover, adults tried in every possible way to keep the intrigue. They answer children's questions about the Christmas tree evasively - they will never say directly that the Christmas tree is being prepared for the meeting of children.
Finally, the long-awaited moment comes - and the doors swing open. The picture of a luminous elegant forest beauty causes real delight, comparable to a miracle, with immersion in a fairy tale.
Children rejoice, rejoice, clap their hands, look with pleasure at the toys and sweets hanging on it. And then there comes a moment that would cause us great bewilderment today. The tree only stands for one day. And at the end of the holiday, it is given to the children at their full disposal.
They literally pounce on a tree, pluck toys and sweets from it, knock down, destroy and break branches. Nothing remains of the former forest beauty. In those years, this kind of action was called "destroying the Christmas tree." Memories of the Christmas holiday and the Christmas tree for many children become the happiest moments of life.
How the Christmas tree was celebrated in the Soviet Union
The godless authorities that came to power after the 1917 revolution did not favor the Christmas tree as an attribute of the Christmas holiday. In the 1920s there were still Christmas markets, Christmas trees were sold, and parents arranged good family holidays for their children. But in 1929, the day off for Christmas was canceled, along with the New Year. Frantic anti-religious propaganda is unfolding in the country, the tree is banned. Propaganda posters of that time are characterized by such slogans: “Parents, do not confuse us: do not make Christmas and a Christmas tree!”
This continued until 1935, when it was decided at the top that the Christmas tree and the merry New Year's holiday should be restored.
See the article of the encyclopedia "History of Santa Claus" for more details. Trees and Christmas decorations immediately appear on sale. Only now the Christmas tree is becoming an attribute of the New Year holiday, which is replacing the Christmas holiday everywhere. Christmas decorations have an ideological connotation. Instead of golden apples and flowers, planes, tanks, paratroopers, soldiers, and many toys with Soviet symbols appear.
Soviet Christmas traditions are taking shape. Special methodological literature is published for teachers and pioneer workers, analyzing the practical experience of holding Christmas trees in the Soviet country.
The Christmas tree festival acquires new traditions, which, in general terms, are preserved to this day. The obligatory guests of the Christmas tree are Ded Moro and the Snow Maiden. The winter wizard usually appears in the middle of the action. You need to call him several times to come visit.
Lighting of fires becomes an obligatory element of the New Year's holiday. Under the guidance of Santa Claus, all participants in the holiday say a magic New Year's spell three times: “One, two, three! Shine Christmas tree!" Around the dressed-up forest beauty they dance, they sing the main New Year's song “A Christmas tree was born in the forest ...” in chorus. At the end of the holiday, the winter wizard distributes gifts to children. Sometimes, to get a present, children read simple rhymes, sing songs and dance.
About the history of the New Year spell "One, two, three! Christmas tree, burn!" written a separate article.
Main and Kremlin Christmas Trees of the country
Christmas trees held in Moscow, first in the House of Unions, and then in the Kremlin Palace of Congresses, receive the status of the main Christmas tree. After moving to the KDS, the main Christmas tree is also called the Kremlin. The children of the entire country of the Soviets dream of getting to the Kremlin Christmas tree of the country. Initially, the best students of the capital's schools are invited to it. Subsequently, especially distinguished children from other parts of the Soviet Union come to Moscow.
In modern Russia, the main Christmas tree is the spruce, which is installed on the Cathedral Square of the Kremlin. This first happened in December 1996. In different years, due to climatic conditions, a living tree was replaced with an artificial one.
In 2019, a 90-year-old tree 27 meters high was chosen as the main Christmas tree in Russia. The lower branches of the beauty were 6 meters wide. She lived in the Borodino forestry of the Mozhaisk district of the Moscow region.
The search for the main Christmas tree is a very important and responsible business. They start a few months before the New Year. Sometimes, in order to pick up the “right” beautiful tree, helicopter reconnaissance and photography are carried out. Several trees are planned for the role of the first forest beauty, which must meet certain parameters. Age - over 90 years old, height - more than 25 meters, diameter at the place of its log - more than 70 centimeters.
Selected from hundreds of similar trees, the main Christmas tree arrives in Moscow by a special road train, and is delivered directly to the Kremlin through the Spassky Gates.
Then comes the equally important stage of decorating the Christmas tree, which lasts several days and is always thought out in advance. A garland is being prepared, exceeding a kilometer in length, non-standard large balls and toys are ordered. The star of Bethlehem is installed on top of the modern main Christmas tree.
Interesting facts about the Christmas trees of the world
Did you know that there are so-called floating Christmas trees in the world. Trees are installed on specially prepared rafts and sent on a journey through the water element. The most famous and tallest is the artificial Christmas tree, which is installed annually in Rio de Janeiro on Lake Lagoa.