The Christmas Tree

Warren Bull
Bio: Warren Bull is an award-winning author with three novels and more than 100 stories published.

Dec 12,2017

The Christmas Tree


Do you hang your Christmas tree from the ceiling? People used to. About a thousand years ago in Northern Europe where Christmas trees probably first became popular, people used to hang them from the ceiling using chains.


Cherry trees and hawthorn plants were potted and brought inside in hope they would flower at Christmas. People who couldn’t afford real plants made wooden pyramids decorated to look like a tree with paper, apples and candles. Sometimes they were carried around from house to house.


Estonia and Riga in Latvia both claim they had the first trees. The Brotherhood of Blackheads, a group of unmarried businessmen, ship owners and foreigners, are credited with the first documented use of a tree at Christmas and New Year celebrations. The trees sat in the town square while the brotherhood members first danced around them and then set them on fire. It sounds like a bachelor party to me.


According to one story, 16th century German preacher Martin Luther was walking through the forest on Christmas Eve. He looked up and saw the stars shining through the branches. It was so beautiful that when he got home he told his children it reminded him of Jesus who, he said, left the stars behind to come to the earth at Christmas. He may have been the first person to decorate a tree inside his house.


Another story tells us that St. Boniface of Crediton traveled from England to Germany to convert the people to Christianity. He found a group of pagans ready to sacrifice a young boy to an oak tree. In his anger, the saint cut down the oak tree. A young fir tree sprang up from its roots. His followers decorated the tree with candles so he could preach to them at night.


Still another tale starts on a cold Christmas Eve when a woodsman and his family were in their cottage gathered round the fire to keep warm. Someone knocked on the door. Opening he door he discovered a little boy standing on the doorstep, lost and alone. The family welcomed the boy in, fed him, washed him and put him to bed. On Christmas morning, the family awoke to a choir of angels. The little boy was Jesus in disguise. Jesus broke a branch off a fir tree and gave it to the family to say thank you. People brought a Christmas tree into their homes to remember.


In Germany, the first Christmas trees were decorated with gingerbread and gold-covered apples. Later glassmakers made special small ornaments like ones we use. In England Prince Albert (Queen Victoria’s German husband) had a Christmas tree in Windsor Castle, which increased its popularity. A drawing of the tree at Windsor Castle was published in the United States. In Victorian times, people used candles to represent stars.


Artificial Christmas trees have been around since the beginning of the celebration. In Edwardian times, trees made from colored ostrich feathers were favored. Other material used included glass, paper mache, metal and plastic. In New Zealand the Pohutakawa that has red flowers that bloom during the holidays, is often used for a Christmas tree. In India mango trees and banana trees are popular choices. I’ve used a fichus tree myself.

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