What the Christmas tree means

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The Christmas tree is a symbol of the holiday season and a tradition that has been around for centuries. It’s roots come from pagan traditions, but it became a Christian symbol in the 16th century.

The Christmas Tree symbolizes the birth of Jesus Christ. It is a representation of the tree in the Garden of Eden and it is also a reminder that we are all children of God who should love one another. Read more in detail here: what does the christmas tree symbolize in the bible.

We all adore Christmas, and what is one of the most important aspects of the holiday season? Of course, there’s the Christmas tree! But what does the tree that decorates our home during the holidays really represent? What is the significance of the Christmas tree?

What Is the Origin of the Christmas Tree?

Winter celebrations were associated with the use of evergreens and greenery, since they were plants that lasted all year and were thought to protect the home from bad spirits, witches, ghosts, and diseases.

People thought that since these plants remained green throughout the year, particularly throughout the winter, they would be protected; it was not only a symbol of protection, but also of health.

What is the Christmas tree’s real origin?

Originally, the Christmas tree was a pagan religious emblem of festivity. It is mostly recognized as a German custom.

If they couldn’t locate a plant to symbolize the tree, the Christmas tree became a pyramid tree. People would make a tree-like pyramid out of wood and adorn it with nuts, gingerbread, apples, paper, and candles.

On Christmas Eve, the trees and pyramids were typically paraded throughout town to display to the other families as a symbol of good health, to ward off bad spirits. Throughout the 16th century, it grew in popularity, eventually becoming very popular among aristocracy and royalty.

Is there a religious significance to a Christmas tree?

For the Saturnalia festival, Romans used evergreens to adorn their temples, while Ancient Egyptians used green palm rushes to decorate their temples as part of devotion to the God of Ra.

It is said that a guy named Martin Luther brought the first recorded Christmas tree inside and decorated it in the 16th century. He was reported to have seen the stars through the evergreen trees on his way home and returned home to tell his children that it reminded him of Jesus. People began to decorate trees with candles as a sign of inviting Jesus into their homes after he wrote a sermon for his church about the event. For Christians, the Christmas tree symbolizes Jesus and the light he gives to the world.

Where did the tradition of putting up a Christmas tree originate from?

It originated from the custom of covering the tree or ‘Christmas pyramid’ with gingerbread, candles, and other decorations to resemble/replicate Jesus’ birth narrative. This was done so that as individuals went about presenting and showing off their Christmas trees/pyramids, they were encouraging others to come to the church to see their nativity play based on the Christmas narrative.

Though, as time passed, it became increasingly usual for households to retain their trees inside to adorn as their own, rather than as community showpieces.

Could you image trying to lug a Christmas tree around your block? It’s no wonder that we now keep our Christmas trees in our homes for our family to enjoy.

Why do we decorate our Christmas trees with ornaments?

Nowadays, decorating the Christmas tree is such a significant occasion for families; it is the time of year when they all gather together to decorate the tree, which they then sit around and put gifts beneath as the centerpiece of their holiday celebration.

However, the root of why we place ornaments on the tree may be traced back to the 16th century. Europeans would use apples to adorn their trees to represent the paradise tree in the tale of Adam and Eve, as well as to remind people of the forbidden fruit Eve ate.

Christmas trees were subsequently adorned with delectable delicacies such as gingerbread stars, angels, and holly, as we know them today.

The very first Christmas ornament

Glassblower Hans Greiner is believed to have developed the first glass ornament because he couldn’t afford to purchase apples and chose to manufacture his own. Others started to purchase his glass apples and other glass decorations that resembled fruit and nuts to symbolize the Christmas holiday after seeing his works.

Now, I’m not sure about you, but these glass apples and nuts sound very similar to the ornaments we purchase now, so it’s no surprise they were popular.

Why do we decorate a Christmas tree with lights?

Putting lights on a tree harkens back to the concept of the lights symbolizing Jesus as Light in the Dark. The stars and planets in the sky were represented by the lights and decorations on the tree. Many Christians would put a manger beneath their trees to represent Jesus Christ’s advent under the stars.

However, it wasn’t until the mid-nineteenth century that Americans and Britons began to adorn their Christmas trees! After Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, brought the custom over from Germany, it became popular. (For additional information on how to celebrate Christmas Victorian style, see How To Celebrate Christmas Victorian Style.)

In America, however, putting lights on Christmas trees (candles) needed buckets of water and sand since it was not unusual for the trees to catch fire, which they did often.

It wasn’t until 1882 when Thomas Edison’s colleague Edward Johnson adorned his Christmas tree with electric lights, earning him the moniker “Father of the Electric Christmas Tree.” The tradition of adorning Christmas trees with electric lights spread from there, and by 1920, electric Christmas lights were available in every shop.

Why do we adorn our Christmas trees with tinsel?

Tinsel was invented in the 17th century in Europe, and it was made by pounding silver alloy until it was paper-thin and then cutting it into strips. It was used as a Christmas tree ornament to reflect the flickering and glistening candle flames. They seemed as if there were sparkling stars in the sky, but they were on their trees.

Obviously, we can now buy tinsel in nearly every color conceivable, but the combination of tinsel and lights can produce a sparkling star appearance, making this time of year even more wonderful for you and your family.

The Story Behind ‘Silent Night’

The lyrics to Silent Night were written by Josef Mohr, a man whose name was unloved in his home town of Salzburg. Mohr was one of three illegitimate sons to Anna Schoiberin, while his father, Franz, was a mercenary soldier who eventually abandoned the family. To make matters worse, Josef’s godfather was the town executioner.

Perhaps due to his mother’s poverty, the curate of the local Catholic cathedral took Josef in as a foster child. Josef had a proclivity toward music, which was encouraged by the church, and he eventually decided himself to pursue the priesthood. He was ordained August 21, 1815, and was sent to Oberndorf, just north of Salzburg. He there met Franz Xaver Gruber, a local schoolteacher who would become organist at Old Saint Nicholas Church the following year.

Gruber came from equally humble origins, and himself took comfort in his music. The friendship of the two is what led to the creation of Silent Night.

Silent Night—or Stille Nacht in the original German—was created because Mohr needed a carol for worship. On Christmas Eve of 1818, Mohr visited Gruber with a poem he had written a few years earlier. Gruber quickly arranged the song to be played on a guitar with a choir because the church organ was broken. That evening at Midnight Mass, Gruber strapped on his guitar and led the congregation at St. Nicholas in the first rendition of Silent Night.

The original arrangement was a bit faster than the slow, reflective version of the song we know today. But the song was an immediate hit, later being sung by traveling tours and performed before King Frederick William IV of Prussia. Later in the 1800s, the hymn was translated into English and made its way to America by way of a book called Sunday School Hymnal, though with only three of the original six verses.

Today, Silent Night is perhaps the most famous Christmas carol in history. It has been translated into most languages, and the Bing Crosby version is the third-bestselling single in history. A rebuilt Silent Night Chapel in Oberndorf is now a cultural landmark (a replica can be found in Frankenmuth, Michigan). The song itself was even declared to be an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011.

1 Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
Round the virgin mother and child;
Holy infant, tender and mild,
Rests in heavenly peace.

2 Silent night! Holy night!
Guiding star, lend thy light.
See, the eastern wise men bring
Gifts and homage to our King,
Jesus Christ is here.

3 Silent night! Holy night!
Wondrous star, lend thy light.
With the angels let us sing
Hallelujahs to our King,
Jesus Christ is here.