As we decorate our trees in the run-up to Christmas, you might wonder where the tradition of Christmas trees comes from?
Tree Dressing tradition:
Although we decorated homes and churches with greenery in the UK, bringing a whole tree into the home and decorating it was unknown until two centuries ago. Our modern Christmas tree tradition came to the UK from Germany, and many think of Queen Victoria and her German husband Prince Albert who made a lot of today’s Christmas traditions popular. It iss thought that the tradition was first introduced even earlier by King George III’s German wife in the 1790s although it didn’t spread beyond the royal family.
Evergreen trees were brought into the home in Germany, Latvia and Estonia and decorated with “roses made of colored paper, apples, wafers, tinsel, [and] sweetmeats” (Wikipedia), moving to candles in the 18th Century.The roots of the German tradition go deep and are probably linked to older customs in pre-Christian Europe and further afield. There are actually many traditions around the world that celebrate trees by decorating them:
“The old Celtic custom of tying cloth dipped in water from a holy well to a ‘clootie tree’ echoes the practice in Japan of decorating trees with strips of white paper, or tanzaku, bearing wishes and poems.” Common Ground, Tree Dressing Day.
A new tradition:
Common Ground “planted a seed” in 1990 by going back to the idea of decorating living trees out in the landscape, encouraging communities to remember how much trees do for us. Perhaps a bit kinder to trees than cutting one down to bring indoors and decorate! Tree Dressing Day falls on the first weekend of December each year, and has grown to include many different communities celebrating trees in their own way.
A really, really tall Christmas Tree:
A couple in Worcestershire had a live Christmas tree, a small fir tree, and they decided to plant it outside their house after Christmas. “I remember after that first Christmas thinking to myself that I didn’t want to just throw the tree out so I planted it in the front garden,” says Avril Rowland. That was in 1978, and now Avril and her husband Christopher have a 52ft Christmas tree that lights up their whole street!
London’s tallest Christmas decoration:
“London’s Shard gets some festive sparkle” – the top 20 floors will be lit up in a display every night from 3rd December through to 1st Jan to celebrate Christmas. A bit like a really tall Christmas tree.