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Sunday, December 9, 2018

History of the Christmas Tree

In ancient Egypt during winter solstice the citizens would decorate the temples and homes with evergreen trees and wreaths as part of the celebration. Evergreens represented everlasting life, peace ad opulence. During winter the Egyptian sun god Ra. During winter solstice it was believed that Ra would become ill and weak unable to shine for as long as it had on the warmer days. The evergreen's immortality symbolized triumph of life over death.

The Vikings that reigned in Scandinavia were also finding favor with evergreens. It was believed that Balder, their god of light and peace would bring evergreens as a special gift. Druids brought evergreens into the home around 8th century. The Druids had also been known to worship the oak tree as their idol. It was an English monk that used the evergreen tree as a symbol of the trinity to help spread the story of Christ

Credit is given to the German priest Martin Luther for bringing the Christmas tree to Germany and introducing it to the world of Christianity. German Christians built pyramids of wood and adorned them with evergreens and candles outside as part of the celebration of Jesus birth. Luther went a step forward and brought the tree inside and covered it with wire and candles. However, most Americans during the 18th and 19th century thought the activity was a bit odd.

Perhaps it was thought to be a bit pagan like to bring the evergreen tree into the house. The Plymouth colony governor called it a "pagan mockery" and the general court of Massachusetts implemented a law in 1659 that banned any observance of December 25 that was not a church service. Thus the law even banned decorations.

In 1846 Queen Victoria was sketched with her children and husband beside a Christmas tree in Windsor Castle. Queen Victoria's popularity helped change the mind on a Christmas tree. Trees became popular in Germany, Britain and the United States. Ornaments were also becoming quite popular. By the early 20th century Americans had large floor to ceiling trees that were decorated with homemade items like popcorn strings, marzipan cookies, nuts, apples and candles.

The invention of electricity not only made it easier to see but also brought more decoration to the Christmas tree. Strings of lights replaced candles. Edison himself created the first strand of electric lights in 1880. He strung the lights on the wall directly outside of his lab. Shortly after another inventor Edward Johnson would wire red, white and blue lights around the Christmas tree Never the less, it would not be til 1903 before General Electric had pre-assembled light kits for the every day home. The National Christmas Tree was not lit until 1923 when President Calvin Coolidge had it decorated with 3,000 electric lights. Following shortly behind in 1931 was the very first Rockefeller Center

The Christmas tree has came a long way. With most homes hosting a decorated Christmas tree it has became part of Christmas tradition. The tree itself is meant to resemble peace and prosperity something it seems we all could use more of.

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