Historians agree that our modern Christmas tree tradition originated in the German Renaissance period (circa 1500). Martin Luther added candles as decoration. Prior to candles, Tannenbaum (or Christmas tree in English) were decorated with apples and nuts.
The practice of bringing evergreen boughs into the home at Solstice is much older. Egyptian culture used evergreen boughs to celebrate eternal life.
Polish people celebrating Koliada, an ancient winter festival, enjoyed creating Podlazniczka, which are fir branches suspended from the ceilings. The branches were decorated with apples, nuts, stars made from straw and coloured paper.
In Georgia, Chichilaki, dried hazelnut or walnut branches, were shaped to form small coniferous trees. The people thought Chichilaki resembled the beard of St. Basil the Great.
The Christmas tree tradition spread from Germany into other parts of Europe and then North America. In 1800 Charlotte of Mecklenberg-Strelitz, the German born wife of King George III of England, decorated a tree for a children’s party. In 1781 Brunswick soldiers stationed in Quebec decorated trees over the Solstice period.
Evergreen trees remind us all of green plants which will grow again in the coming spring and summer months.
I am lucky. My forest home provides my Christmas tree. A family event, Roger and our grandchildren love tramping through the forest looking for the perfect tree; hot chocolate and some early Christmas cookies are waiting in the cozy kitchen upon return.
A few days later, after the tree has warmed and the frost sublimed away, my favourite activity begins. I get to decorate the tree!
Our decorations are also fashioned in our home. Over the years, I have made little treasures for the tree. Wooden spools with coloured ribbon and bells, knit candy canes and manicotti noodles covered with colourful aluminium foil to name a few. One year I collected cookie snack containers from children’s lunches. While I didn’t understand the fascination with the actual cookies, the containers made wonderful angel bodies.
Some of my favourite decorations come from other hands. As an Educational Assistant in years past, I received many ornaments – felt or clay treasures, each crafted by small children’s hands.
Antique cookie tins hold my decorations. Each year the spirit of giving and thoughtfulness is renewed as I carefully remove tissue paper from the most fragile decorations.
On a recent friend sleepover, my grandchildren, Darwin and Aria, helped friends Selena and Felicia Christie create some ornaments. A wonderful activity for a wintery evening, the kids enjoyed preparing the dough and decorating the shapes. At this time of the year, tree decorations are the perfect activity.
There will be a few gifts under my Christmas tree this year. The real gifts, however, are hanging on the tree. The special decorations represent children creating; they represent children giving.
It is a most wonderful time of the year with my Tannebaum glistening in the living room.