It seems like the holidays come upon us earlier and earlier every year. Everywhere from malls to town squares begin to put up dazzling displays, decking the halls as they say. Trees, especially fir trees, are adorned with lights that twinkle and light up the crisp, dark hours that come with winter. Have you ever wondered why we go through with these traditions year after year? Will generations from now look back and wonder why we would bring trees into our homes and hang lights and ornaments and strings of popcorn on them? We’re going to take a closer look at why we participate in some of these traditions over the next few weeks.
In America, three of the major holidays that are celebrated at the end of the year are Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas. Many of the traditional decorations that can be seen in houses and in towns throughout the country draw their inspiration from these religions and cultures.
Take for example the Christmas tree. It is said that in the year 722, Saint Boniface was able to keep a young child from becoming a human sacrifice to a pagan god by cutting down the oak tree that was to be used as the stake at which he would burn. Some versions of the story disagree on how a fir tree came to be used in this story, with some accounts saying that a fir tree sprang to in place of the oak tree, whereas other versions say that Boniface pointed to a fir tree that was nearby to emphasize his beliefs, that the fir tree is more acceptable to his god because not only does it point to heaven, but the three sides of its triangular shape are representative of the Christian trinity.
Throughout the centuries after this, fir trees would become associated with the Christmas season. By the 17th Century, Christmas markets were being held in order to sell trees, as well as decorations, to people who wanted to decorate their home. Hand sewn snowflakes as well as candies that were held in hoops would be used among the first ornaments to decorate trees. During the Victorian era people had begun to add the decorations that we know today, streamers, bulbs, and lights to their trees.
Trees today can be either real or fake, and many of the real trees are treated and grown specifically to prevent needle loss.
Check back shortly as we continue this fascinating series on the origins of holiday decorations.