Stories, legends, myths - Christmas tree

Christmas is the season of presents, joy and spending time with loved ones around the tree. But it's also a time for romantic stories, tales of elves and enchanted toy factories, and legends about the customs that accompany the holiday. Christmas stories are never enough. That's why today it's all about stories, and that's the Christmas tree stories.

the story of the Christmas tree
Christmas fair in Germany source photo: culturalawareness.com


Christmas tree, symbol of hope, love and faith

There are many legends about the Christmas tree. One of them says that a small bird couldn't fly to warmer climes because its wing was broken. When bad weather came it tried to hide in the woods. First it took shelter in an oak tree, then in an elm, but none of them would take it in for fear of it eating their fruit. Desperate, she sat in the snow waiting for her end. Then a fir tree saw her and called her to it, hiding her and saving her. On Christmas night a wind blew so hard that all the trees lost their leaves. All except the fir tree, which God rewarded for its kindness by leaving its leaves evergreen.

Another legend says that, once upon a time, three sister virtues - Hope, Love and Faith - set out in search of the tree that best represented them. It had to be as tall as Hope, as big as Love and as strong as Faith. Searching through the forest, the three virtues came across the tree and realised it was what they were looking for. Overjoyed, they illuminated it with the rays of the stars, adorning it. And so the tree became the tree that eternally symbolises hope, love and faith.

the story of the Christmas tree
Martin Luther and family around the Christmas tree (1536) photo source: porterbriggs.com


When the Christmas tree tradition began

The origins of the Christmas tree go way back to prehistoric times, when our pagan ancestors celebrated the winter solstice around December 21 with evergreen branches or decorated boughs. Such customs were not unique to Europe. Evidence of the celebrations has also been found in Egypt and China. The Druids of England and France worshipped the oak tree and decorated it with oak branches in honour of the harvest god.

While pagans worshipped the oak tree, Christians chose the fir tree because of its triangle shape, which reminds us of the Holy Trinity. It seems that the first person to use the triangular shape of the tree associated with Christianity was St Boniface in the 8th century on his journey through Germany. Pagan festivals, those celebrating pre-Christian gods or customs, continue to use oak leaves.

The first publicly erected and documented Christmas tree was in Riga, Latvia, in 1510. It was decorated with paper flowers and fruit, a combination of pagan and Christian traditions. Around the same time in Germany, Martin Luther told people to put candles in the Christmas tree to symbolise the stars shining all night, a custom that quickly spread throughout the country.

Later, in the 1700s, German immigrants brought the custom to what is now the United States, and by the turn of the century it had reached Canada. Also in the 1700s the Christmas tree reached Russia, brought by Peter the Great. The custom lasted here for over 200 years, until it was outlawed after the Bolshevik revolution in 1917.

Although Denmark is now the largest producer of Christmas trees, the first tree was officially erected in Copenhagen's City Hall Square in 1914. It was not, however, Denmark's first tree. The first documented record of a Christmas tree here dates back to 1808. In England, the Christmas tree first appeared in 1841 when Queen Victoria's German-born husband, Prince Albert, gave his wife a tree as a gift, which was placed in Windsor Castle and decorated. The custom soon spread throughout England and the colonies.

the story of the Christmas tree
Christmas at the palace in Russia source photo: allrus.me


Christmas tree tradition in Romania

In Romania, the Christmas tree has always been seen as a symbol, even before it was a Christian one. It was given at birth, decorated at weddings and funerals. Even now, in the villages, the custom of decorating the tree at weddings with fruit and coloured paper is still observed.

Christmas tree decoration appeared in Romania in the second half of the 19th century. The custom came from Germany and there are two versions of the first Christmas tree. One says that it all started with the German nanny of a wealthy nobleman, who decorated a tree for the children in her care. The second, which is considered official and supported by documents, says that the custom was brought to the country by Prince Charles of Hohenzollern, the future King Charles I of Romania. The royal family's custom of celebrating Christmas around the tree quickly spread among the nobility, establishing the custom.

The tree is mostly decorated with baubles and lights. About the first glass globes, in another story

the story of the Christmas tree
Decorating the tree at the wedding source photo: imperialtransilvania.com
the story of the Christmas tree
The Royal Family of Romania around the Christmas tree source photo: romanialibera.ro


Other stories, legends, myths.

About the author

Mihaela Radu

Mihaela Radu is a chemical engineer but has a great passion for wood. She has been working in the field for more than 20 years, wood finishing being what defined her during this period. She gained experience working in a research institute, in her own company, as well as in a multinational. She wants to continuously share her experience with those who have the same passion - and more.

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