The Christmas tree is another German tradition that made its way all over the world. People always decorated their homes with evergreen twigs or branches on Christmas because they symbolize health, and it has been customary to decorate whole trees for certain occasions since the middle ages (e.g. Maypole).
It is said that in Freiburg a tree was used in 1419 for the first time to be decorated with sweets, fruit and nuts that the kids could eat from it after New Year’s Day, but this cannot be proven anymore. The first official date where Christmas trees were mentioned is 1521. They stood in the homes of the rich as Christmas decoration.
After a while the Christmas tree became more popular in other countries in middle Europe and in 1832 the first Christmas tree was put up by a German born Harvard professor in Massachusetts. After Queen Victoria married Albert von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha, the tree was introduced in London and also came to other countries like Russia, the Netherlands or Italy.
When I was a girl we used to put up our Christmas tree only on December 24, but nowadays people put up and decorate their trees earlier and earlier. The tree normally gets taken down again on Epiphany (January 6).
The most popular tree for a Christmas tree is the fir tree (especially the Caucasian fir), but people also use pine trees or spruce. Artificial trees are not that popular in Germany; nothing beats a real tree and its scent. To use tinsel to decorate the tree is an idea that was born in Nuremberg in 1878. It is supposed to symbolize glittering icicles. A lot of people decorate their trees with glass baubles and lights, but also straw stars, wooden ornaments and bows are very popular. Some people even use real candles even though I wouldn’t recommend it, especially when you have kids. Just like with the advent wreath there is no limit as to what you can use as decoration. Homemade or bought, inexpensive or very pricey, traditional or funky colour combinations – everything goes.
Tree images from flickr users MightyPirate Threepwood, onnola and hombertho.
What does YOUR Christmas tree look like?