Stories from the Barn
A hive of activity in the Hampshire downlands
Bring in the Christmas Tree
The days are shortening and darkness settles. Time to bring in the Christmas tree!
Advent Calendar 12
The Christmas tree in our homes is just part of a tradition witnessed around the world that speaks of a time when light over darkness was a time of celebration. In all sorts of cultures the Winter Solstice marked the return of the sun, of growth and harvests. Evergreen plants with their magical way of staying green throughout the coldest darkest days were ushered indoors.
And so this deepest and darkest part of Winter coincides with the Christian celebration of Christmas. The date of the 25th December corresponds to the Winter Solstice on the Roman calendar. Pagans in Britain brought of boughs of evergreens indoors at this important time of year. Bringing the whole evergreen tree indoors just took the idea a whole step forward.
Choosing the Christmas tree is a family affair and it is always fun to watch families as they mull over which one is coming home. Getting it home and getting it upright is quite another matter!
Decorating the tree.
Each household has their own way of decorating the tree. Memories get placed on the branches, heirloom decorations, children’s creations In our household the whole lot sit together. Lights, tinsel to represent lying snow, no attempt at a colour coordinated tree. On the top sits an angel, perfection. Just time to add the lights and toast the tree!
History of the Christmas tree.
There is a story that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, was the first person to add lighted candles to a tree. A lovely image emerges of Luther walking home one night. His head is full of a sermon he is composing when he contemplates the stars twinkling through the fir trees. This inspires him to bring a tree into his house and light it with candles so the vision that inspired him would continue to do so even indoors.
Whether or not this story is true, the Germans are credited with introducing the Christmas tree to the world. However as the Puritans began to become a force they refused to acknowledge any nod to Pagan celebrations or celebrations of any kind. Meanwhile in England Oliver Cromwell decided that other than going to church no celebration of 25th December would be tolerated. Fines were handed out to people who decorated their homes with green boughs. Christmas as a celebration was finished for a substantial period of time.
The British royal family brought their German influence to bear and the Christmas tree returned to people’s homes. Prince Albert celebrated Christmas with Queen Victoria and their family and pictures of the royal Christmas inspired others to do the same.
The Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square in London is an annual gift from Norway to Britain each year as a thank you for the support Britain gave Norway during World War 1.