Day 17
The Christmas Tree, the Star and an Angel

Each year the people of Norway gift the people of England a huge tree to stand-in Trafalgar Square.

 

The Christmas tree as we know it today was popularised in the UK by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in the mid-1800s but much earlier evergreen plants had been brought into homes by the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Both civilizations would have mid-winter celebrations and festivals to honour the winter solstice which falls on the 21st of December in the Northern Hemisphere.

The Celts of Northern Europe and the Vikings of Scandanavia also had mid-winter festivals for the same reason.

In all these civilizations there were practices of decorating the home with evergreen plants. The evergreen plant was a way to remind them that this was the darkest point of the year and that hope was on its way with the days getting lighter. 

Evergreens and greenery were used as a symbol for winter festivals as these were the plants that would last all year round and were believed by some people to protect the house from evil spirits, witches, ghosts and illnesses.

Other people believed that they would be protected as these plants would remain green throughout the year, especially throughout winter; it was not only a sign for protection but health.

But that's not why we have Christmas trees!

It is believed that the first known Christmas tree that was brought inside and decorated was during the 16th century by a man called Martin Luther. It was said that on his walk home, he saw the stars through the evergreen trees and went home to tell his children that it reminded of him of Jesus. He later wrote a sermon about the experience for his church, leading to the spread of people decorating the trees with candles as a symbol of letting Jesus into their homes. In modern terms, the meaning of a Christmas tree is that the Christmas tree represents Jesus and the light he brings to the world, for Christians.

Usually, it was decorated with real candles and with gingerbread.

But now we focus on baubles , usually made from glass , wood or plastic. Some people collect new ones when they travel so that their Christmas tree is always a reminder of 'blessing' they have known. 

And, of course, the top of the tree is the perfect place for an angel (remembering the one who spoke to the shepherds) or a star to remember the one that led the Wise Men on their journey to Bethlehem.