Christmas trees have long held the world’s gaze. As early as October in many parts of the world and certainly in the U.S. you can find people putting up Christmas trees and decorations. Many people, me included, stop to gaze at grand trees decorated with lights and baubles in every city we come to. The beauty of the green needles highlighted with lights of every color shining forth in a winter of leafless and dead looking things amazes all of us.
Christmas trees first showed up in the world around 1000 A.D., in the homes of the Germanic peoples across central Europe. In many cultures, they would select a single specimen of their native evergreen, and parade it through town while telling the stories of the birth of Jesus. The evergreen Christmas tree is meant to be a symbol of everlasting life and the life we would gain by believing in Jesus. Oftentimes, the tree would be burned as a tradition of the Yule log.
Martin Luther may have been one of the first to bring the tradition indoors. He was inspired one night by the stars shining down on the evergreens near his home. He cut one down and brought it indoors and decorated it with candles. Many of the early Christmas trees were decorated with gingerbread, apples, and sweets. The first electric lights were put on trees in the late 1800’s after many fires from candles on trees became a problem.
Many German families would hang their Christmas trees upside down from the ceiling. I remember this tradition in my family’s home when I was a child. My Grandmother had the tree hung upside down in the corner of the living room, then decorated it with gold garland, bells, and white lights.
I can still remember cutting down Christmas trees with my Dad. We would often cut the top out of one of our windbreak trees to use as a Christmas tree. We even got 3 trees from one windbreak tree that kept re-growing. We used Scotch pine as our Christmas trees until they got too big to cut out of, then we started buying fir trees from the grocer in town.
There are many different types of evergreens across the world. Here in the U.S. we use a lot of Norway spruce, balsam and Fraser fir, and Scotch pine as Christmas trees. You can even buy trees from your local nursery and keep them inside for a couple weeks decorated, then take them outside and plant somewhere. Other people like to plant evergreens in their landscapes solely for the purpose of using them as outdoor Christmas trees.
There are a myriad of options for the landscape as Christmas trees. The best small ones may be dwarf Alberta spruce, arborvitae, and holly. Medium to large trees could be Norway or Colorado spruce, concolor fir, white pine, or arborvitae.
No matter what your tradition is, it is likely you have a memory of something involving a Christmas tree. This time of year, make sure to remember your traditions and your memories, while you praise the one who came for you.
God bless and Merry Christmas!