Sometime during the 7th century, an English monk traveled to Germany to teach Christian values. In explaining the Holy Trinity, he supposedly used a fir tree’s triangular shape to help demonstrate the relationship. By the 12th century an upside down fir tree had become the symbol of Christianity. The first decorated tree was recorded in 1510 in Riga, Latvia, and early in the 16th century it was reported that Martin Luther is credited with decorating a small Christmas tree with candles.
When England started to depend on the Georgian kings from Germany, they brought the Christmas tree tradition with them. As the English were not too fond of the German kings, it would not be until Queen Victoria and her German Prince Albert were seen standing with their children around a Christmas Tree that the tradition caught root in England and quickly moved west to land on the shores of North America.
When Luther added candles to the tree, he started a tradition of decorating the tree. What was put on top has a history of its own. Electrical lights have replaced candles and bulbs and tinsel have been added. In North America it became traditional for a family to go into the forest and cut their own tree, but as the population grew and more and more lived in a city it became more practical for the tree to come to the family.
In the 1960’s, silver aluminum trees came into existence and the birth of artificial trees was upon society. Today families have three choices in picking a tree for Christmas. For those with an economic bent, there are artificial trees that can be boxed and used year after year and do not leave a pile of needles to be cleaned up. For those who want to retain that pine smell, there are now excellent pine scented sprays to put on the tree. For the traditionalists there are two sources to acquire a real tree. The first is to go to your local Canadian Tire or similar store and purchase one, or for those wishing to recapture the past, they can either go to a tree farm and cut their own or acquire a tree cutting permit from Fish & Wildlife for up to three trees.
Our family still puts up a real tree. We love the smell of the needles and don’t mind that we will be cleaning up those that fall (we have a good vacuum). We also like the tradition of going out to pick a tree. It puts us into the mood of the season. We like the tradition that has come with decorating the tree. It’s my job to put on the lights, then my wife picks the bulbs and other ornaments that will go on the tree and we finish by sharing the placing of the garland. It used to be tinsel, but a few years ago we decided that garland was better suited for our tree.
It was only this year that we realized that our tree had become more than a Christmas tree. It was now our Memory Tree. The tree no longer has a multitude of nondescript pretty ornaments, but from top to bottom has ornaments that described our life. Here was a bulb that we bought on our honeymoon and there was the one we picked up the year we lived in New England and over there was the one we got at a Christmas Craft Show in Northern Alberta. It has taken us a long time to realize that the tree is more than a Christmas tradition but has progressed to become our family tradition that allows us to share the many Christmas memories acquired over the years.
It is unlikely we will ever buy an artificial tree. It just doesn’t have the same feel to it when it comes to putting memories of a lifetime on it.
Whatever you decide to use for a Christmas tree, we hope that it can hold your Christmas memories and wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!