the Christmas Tree
tree, used as a symbol of life, is a tradition older than Christianity
and not exclusive to any one religion. It's a part of our holiday customs
that engages not only our senses of sight, touch, and smell, but also
our sense of tradition, hope, and good will.
In the middle ages,
the Paradise tree, an evergreen tree hung with red apples, was the symbol
of the feast of Adam and Eve held on December 24th. Ever since, red
and green, the colors of apples hanging on a pine tree, have been the
official colors of the holiday season.
The first recorded
reference to the Christmas tree dates back to the 16th century. In Strasbourg,
Germany (now part of France), families both rich and poor decorated
fir trees with many more things to eat in addition to apples. Nuts,
gingerbread cookies, and cookies in the shapes of hearts, bells, angels,
and stars were hidden in the tree while marzipan candies, shaped like
fruits and vegetables, were hung from the boughs. Brightly decorated
eggshells, cut in half and filled with tiny candies, were set in the
tree like birdnests. So many sweets were hung from the tree that some
people called it "the sugar tree."
On the Twelfth Night
of Christmas, January 6th, the tree was shaken, and the children finally
were allowed to eat the sweets that fell from the tree. With time, perhaps
because so many decorations were eaten before the tree was taken down,
the cookies were replaced with decorations made out of thin, painted
metal and colored paper.
When families in
colder climates combined these decorations with candles, they created
the Christmas tree that is found in homes today.
The tradition of
the Christmas tree spread through Europe and was brought to our country
by German settlers in the late 1700's.