By Kevin Mischke, Director of Family Services at Concierge Care Advisors
As we were making plans to get pick out a Christmas tree I told my wife that I wanted some really bright bulbs on it this year. I wanted it to be as bright as Clark’s house in “Christmas Vacation”. That movie has become a Thanksgiving tradition for us to watch every year. The movie, traditions, and all the planning around Christmas got me thinking about why we put up a tree in the first place. I guess I just never questioned the why behind the tree or what it meant. It was just something we always did every year. I did some research and found that the tradition of decorating the tree is done by millions of people worldwide of all different faiths and cultures. It can be a symbol of religion but can also just be a part of December celebrations.
The actual practice of decorating evergreen trees during winter festivals has ancient roots. The Egyptians, Romans, and Vikings all incorporated evergreen branches into their winter celebrations as a symbol of life’s endurance through the harsh winter months. The evergreen can stay green throughout the whole winter, providing a powerful metaphor for resilience and hope. Bringing the evergreen trees indoors was a way to reconnect wit the vitality of the natural world. It symbolized the promise of renewal and the eventual return of spring. The act of decorating the tree with ornaments, lights and other festive elements became a communal and familial tradition, fostering a sense of togetherness.
According to some of the research I found, the 16th-century Germans were the first to bring decorated trees into their homes. They hung fruits, nuts and candles on the trees to celebrate the festive season. Soon this tradition gained popularity and began spreading across Europe. Eventually the decorations transformed into a wide array of ornaments, tinsel, and lights. Each decoration would carry its own symbolism. Bells were said to symbolize joy and celebration. Angels represented the heavenly hosts. Tinsel symbolized light and magic. Ornaments such as flowers, cookies, fruit, and nuts symbolized that spring and life would return in the coming months. Paper streamers, popcorn and cranberries were strung to add color and life to the Christmas tree.
The association between Christmas and the decorated tree took a more profound turn as Christianity spread. Some believed that the triangular shape of the tree symbolizes the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. The evergreen itself was seen as a representation of the eternal life offered through faith. The use of a star on the top of the tree represents the Star of Bethlehem which guided the tree wise men to the baby Jesus.
While the Christmas tree tradition originated in Europe, it has transcended cultural boundaries and become a global phenomenon. Today, countries around the world celebrate the holiday season by adorning trees with unique decorations that reflect their cultural heritage and traditions. It has become an important symbol of family, community and the hope for renewal and joy for the new year ahead. As we gather around our decorated trees this holiday season, let us appreciate the centuries -old tradition that continues to bring warmth and cheer to homes worldwide. I know mine will be really bright (wink, wink)