Christmas Symbols

Christmas Trees

The tradition is relatively new from a historical standpoint. It gained popularity after the Christmas tree was first used by Martin Luther to symbolize the tree of life that grew in the Garden of Eden. It was displayed in a Catholic Nativity scene and was considered a Protestant contribution.

Its true begins however, can be traced back to Northern Germany and Livonia. Documented uses of the Christmas tree in 1441, 1442 and 1514 were attributed to the Brotherhood of the Blackheads who put up an evergreen for the holiday season at their home in Reval. On the final night of celebration the tree was taken down and brought to the town square where the brotherhood celebrated the festive season by dancing all about it. By 1584 Balthasar Russow, a pastor, wrote about the emerging tradition of a tree being erected in the town square, when became the centre of the celebration when people danced around it eventually lighting it on fire. During this same period, guilds began using them in guild halls. The decorations that were used were apples, dates, pretzels, paper flowers and nuts. This guild tradition began mostly out of a desire to entertain the children who collected the dainties that were found on the Christmas tree. By the 18th and 19th century the Christmas tree was becoming a common fixture in households, giving way to the 20th and 21st century appreciation of its significance in Christmas celebrations.

While it is used in many households in present times, there is still some dispute over the value of its usage among different branches of Christian denominations. In addition there has been some ongoing dispute about the safety and environmental consequences of artificial trees. However, the evergreen figures prominently in Yuletide celebrations and will likely continue to do so.