Tuesday, December 16, 2008

O Tannenbaum!

This morning we got a request (Yes, we take requests!) to give a little background about the use of the Christmas Tree to celebrate the holiday. As with so many Christmas traditions, the origins of the Christmas Tree seem to be lost in a blizzard of conflicting stories and appropriated histories.

The ancient Germanic and Celtic tribes are believed to have decorated trees with lights on the shortest day of the year, and the practice may have been handed down to future generations in the form of burning the Yule log and decorating the house with mistletoe and evergreen boughs. As the Christian church gained power in Europe, the Catholics claimed Saint Boniface as wresting the lit tree tradition from the pagans. Some Protestants attribute the invention of the Christmas Tree to reformer Martin Luther, who is said to have been inspired by seeing stars twinkling through the branches of a pine tree one night.

Recognizable Christmas celebrations involving trees began in German churches and guildhalls in the 16th century, and within a few generations had made their way into the country's private homes. Aristocrats throughout mainland Europe and into Russia took up the custom, such that when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in the mid-1800s, he brought the tradition with him. Through Victoria and Albert's example, Christmas Trees were popularized in England and America.

Our own Christmas Tree at Castle in the Air is a marvel to behold. With the help of our industrious gnomes, a handful of people stayed up all night weighing down every branch of the nine-foot Tannenbaum with more than 1,000 glass ornaments and lights. Some customers are afraid to help themselves to the decorations -- please do! As ornaments disappear we replace them so that there's never a moment when the tree looks any way but bountiful and gorgeous.

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