Monday, December 13



As with many customs, the Christmas Tree began as a pagan ritual, to celebrate the winter solstice, as a symbol of life's victory over death.   

But then in the mid 1500's, Germans began using evergreen trees as a symbol of hope for the coming of spring. This practice is likely to have gradually evolved from pagan rituals of past, and merged with the celebration of Christmas leading to the tree's Christian beginnings.  In the mid 16th century, Christmas markets were set up in German towns, to provide everything from gifts, food and more practical things such as a knife grinder to sharpen the knife to carve the Christmas Goose! At these fairs, bakers often made shaped gingerbreads and wax ornaments for people to buy as souvenirs of the fair, and take home to hang on their Christmas Trees.

TINSEL was invented in Germany around 1610. At that time real silver was used, and machines were invented which pulled the silver out into the wafer thin strips for tinsel. Silver was durable, but tarnished quickly, especially with candlelight. Attempts were made to use a mixture of lead and tin, but this was heavy and tended to break under its own weight so was not so practical. So silver was used for tinsel right up to the mid-20th century.

ORNAMENTS were usually handmade - made of paper or wire.  Ladies often quilled snowflakes or stars.  Candles served as lights.  By the 1870's, glass ornaments were beginning to appear and served as a status symbol.  The more glass ornaments you had, the better your status!

Christmas trees arrived in America in the 1800's.  In 1851, Mark Carr opened the first Christmas tree retail lot.  Traditionally, Christmas trees were not brought in and decorated until Christmas Eve, and then they were removed the day after "twelfth night" (January 6).  To have a tree up before or after these dates was even considered bad luck.  Of course nowadays, most folks put up their trees shortly after Thanksgiving and leave it up until after New Year's Day.

LIGHTS were added to Christmas trees around 1882, when Edward Johnson, a friend of Thomas Edison, hand wired red, white and blue bulbs and wound his tree with them.  GE (Edison's company) began offering hand-blown lights that needed to be wired together, though homeowners had to hire an electrician to get the lights together safely.  Then in 1903, the American Eveready Company came out with the first Christmas light set with screw-in bulbs and a plug for the wall socket - and folks have been untangling huge knots of lights each holiday season since then...    

BTW Check out Jeremiah 10:2-4 - The prophet Jeremiah criticizes heathens for cutting down trees, carving the trunks and placing precious metals upon the branches in reverence to their gods.  A prophecy of Christmas commercialism perhaps?   I don't really know, but I do find it interesting to think about!  :)   

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