The Christmas tree is central to the Christmas celebration in homes around the world, and has been for centuries. As a kid, and later an adult, I moved around quite a bit. One of the first questions we asked upon moving into a new home was “Where will we put the Christmas tree?” The tree enriches the celebration of Jesus’ birth, its evergreen nature reminding us of the eternal life made available to us because of God’s greatest gift.
Every family has its own traditions surrounding their Christmas tree. From going to pick out the tree (if you’re a “real” tree family, like we are, but more on that in a future post), stringing the lights, hanging the decorations and topping it all off with an angel or star. When it’s all finished and the lights are turned on for the first time everyone “oohs” and “aahs” at the beauty and the warmth the tree provides.
Oddly, at my house we don’t have a set date for putting up the tree. However, we do have some traditions surrounding the experience once we decide that it’s time to get the tree. Everywhere we’ve lived, we’ve had a “go to” Christmas tree place, a “cut your own” farm, roadside stand or shopping center parking lot that we frequent every season. Last year our favorite place, a little farm just north of our home that we’d used for about 10 years, didn’t open. We were forced to scamper all over the county and finally got our tree from a supermarket.
Most historians trace the use of evergreen trees in the celebration of Christmas to Germany in the 1500s. The use of lights on the Christmas tree is credited to Martin Luther, who, the story goes, was walking through the woods one evening and was inspired by the stars shining through the trees. To recapture that scene for his family he brought an evergreen into the house and attached candles to its branches.
By the early 1800s the tradition of the Christmas tree had begun to spread through the royal courts of Europe. And though German immigrants brought the tradition with them to North America in the 1700s, it wasn’t until 1846, when Britain’s Queen Victoria and Prince Albert appeared in an illustration in the London News with their children standing around a Christmas tree that the practice gained wide-spread popularity in North America.
More than 33 million real trees and 9.5 million artificial trees will be sold in the U.S. this year. So untangle those lights, dust off the angel and enjoy this rich holiday tradition with family and friends.