A little history of the Christmas tree: The evergreen fir tree has traditionally been used to celebrate winter festivals (both pagan and Christian for thousands of years. Pagans used branches of it to decorate their homes during the winter solstice because it made them think of the spring to come. Christians used fir trees as a sign of everlasting life.
The first decorations were usually edible; such as gingerbread, apples and popcorn. Some people made roses cut from many colors of paper and some used candy. Then glass makers made small ornaments. At first the figure of baby Jesus was put on the top of a tree, but over time it changed to an angel to signify the one that told the shepherds about the birth of baby Jesus or a star like the Wise Men followed to the manger.
The first Christmas Trees came to Britain in the 1830’s. The tree would have been decorated with candles to represent stars and in Europe some still use candles. In 1885 a hospital in Chicago burned down because of candles on a Christmas tree and for many years homes burned down from the candles on Christmas trees.
In 1917 a New York teenager came up with a novel idea and he and his brothers started the NOMA Electric Company which became a famous name for Christmas lights. They created long strings of lights with painted bulbs of red, green and blue for Christmas trees.
In the 1890’s until World War I trees were made from colored ostrich feathers. Artificial Christmas Trees became popular in the early 20th century. Around 1900 there was even a short fashion of white trees, so the idea that colored trees are a new invention is false. Over the years artificial trees have been made from feathers, paper mache’, aluminum, glass, and plastic.
A lot of us remember the aluminum trees of the 60’s. You couldn’t put lights on them so a wheel with red, green and blue colors of plastic with a light behind it would shine on the aluminum tree to add color.
My dad always picked out our tree and bought it. The trees back then were the old scraggly fir trees. He went to the grocery store and picked one that was leaning against the store front. In the 50’s and 60’s they were usually wrapped in a mess bag so you really were buying a pig in a poke (something that is bought without seeing it first). Dad couldn’t tell what it was going to look like, except for the height, until he cut the mesh bag off. It would take an hour or so for the branches to drop and show their thickness, or lack of. Those trees needed a lot of decorations and 5 pounds of silver tinsel icicles to fill in the holes between the branches.
My husband and I had a few live trees when we were first married but after our first Christmas in the new house and months of trying to get rid of the needles in the thick plush carpet we went to artificial. The one we have now looks real and is covered with lights. We never take it apart, just take it to the basement and cover it up so it doesn’t get dusty.
I love putting all the decorations on the tree. One ornament is always the first one on the tree and always hangs front and center on the tree so we can see it all the time. It was given to us by one of my husbands bosses a few years after the boss retired.
There are others that mean a lot to us that are added in special areas of the tree and also bring back memories. I use strings of tinsel garland and then crystal bells and icicles. Sometimes I weave gold ribbon into the branches. Our tree is mostly crystal and gold.
Of course there is an angel on top or sometimes I use a big gold bow to match the ribbon. There is always a sock reindeer (like a sock monkey) sitting under the tree. He survived both of the cockers that loved carrying him around by his nose and shaking him to hear the bells on his antlers ring. His nose is a little dirty from being mouthed by the two cockers but that brings back memories of them enjoying Christmas.
So as you decorate your tree, remember the meaning behind Christmas trees past and the special people in your life and the reason for the season. Merry Christmas.