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2011-12-22

Origin of beautiful tannenbäume

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

The Christmas tree is probably the most recognizable secular symbol of the December holiday.
The fir tree's long association with Christianity began in Germany nearly 1,000 years ago. According to legend, St. Boniface, a monk credited with converting the German people to Christianity, came across a group of pagans worshipping an oak tree. In anger, St. Boniface cut down the oak tree. To his amazement a young fir tree sprung up from the tree's roots, which the monk took as a sign of the Christian faith.
St. Boniface also purportedly used the triangular shape of the fir tree to describe the Holy Trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Additionally, centuries ago in Great Britain, Druids used evergreens during their winter solstice rituals. Believing holly and mistletoe to be symbols of eternal life, they placed evergreen branches over doors to keep away evil spirits.
It was not until the 16th century, however, that fir trees were brought indoors at Christmas time. In the Middle Ages, Germans and Scandinavians placed evergreen trees inside their homes or just outside their doors as a harbinger of the coming spring.
Legend has it that Martin Luther began the tradition of decorating trees to celebrate Christmas.
As the tale goes, one Christmas Eve, while walking through snow-covered woods, he was struck by the beauty of a group of small evergreens. Dusted with snow, the trees' branches shimmered in the moonlight.
When he returned home, Martin Luther set up a little fir tree indoors so he could share this story with his children. He decorated the tree with candles, which he lighted in honor of Christ's birth.
The Christmas tree first came to England with the Georgian Kings who hailed from Germany. At this time also, German merchants living in England decorated their homes with a Christmas trees.
This tradition was probably brought to the United States with Hessian troops during the American Revolution, or with German immigrants to Pennsylvania and Ohio, according to David Robson, extension educator of horticulture with the Springfield Extension Center.
The origins of decorations on the Christmas tree are equally as interesting. To suggest the Garden of Eden, a tree was decorated with apples, which represented the "forbidden fruit." The apples eventually gave way to other round objects, most notably shiny red balls.
Candles on Christmas trees continued to symbolize Christ.
Fittingly, the National Confectioners' Association officially recognizes August Imgard, a German immigrant who lived in Ohio, as the first person to hang candy canes on a Christmas tree.
Finally, an angel or star placed at the top of the tree, represents a host of angels or the Star of Bethlehem from the Nativity.

Sources: www.christmas-tree.com, www.christmasarchives.com and en.wikipedia.org