The First Christmas Tree

Filed under “Things I did not know before today”.

The National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) has officially recognized the year 1510 as the first recorded instance of a decorated Real Christmas Tree, a tradition born in the city of Riga, Latvia. Entities all over the world also have recognized this milestone.

Not a lot is known about the first Christmas Tree in Riga, other than it was placed in the public marketplace and decorated by the men of the Order of the Blackheads, a long-time merchant”™s guild. The men wore black hats and after the ceremony, they burned the tree. Legend has it that the first Riga tree was decorated with paper flowers. Today, a plaque marks the spot where the original tree stood.

The tradition of the first Christmas Tree is sometimes credited to Martin Luther, with the story that he was walking in the woods when he was awestruck by the beauty of the moonlight on the evergreen trees and took home the first Christmas Tree to his family. Luther reportedly decorated the tree with candles to recreate the beautiful effect of the moonlight on the branches. However, historians believe Martin Luther”™s tree was decorated in northern Germany a few decades after the one in Latvia.

Religious symbolism ”“ Christian and pagan ”“ inspired many of the decorations that adorn Christmas trees. The evergreen tree itself is said to symbolize Christ, life, nature and the Holy Trinity. Live evergreen trees were often brought into homes during the harsh winters as a reminder to inhabitants that soon their crops would grow again.

The pagans of northern Europe celebrated the winter solstice, known as Yule. Yule was symbolic of the pagan sun god Mithras being born and was observed on the shortest day of the year. As the sun god grew and matured, the days became longer and warmer. It was customary to light a candle to encourage Mithras, and the sun, to reappear next year.

The term Christmas Tree first appeared in Strassburg, Alsace, in 1604, though Christian families incorporated the trees into their celebration of the birth of Christ much earlier. Paper roses that adorned many trees in the 1500s are said to represent the Virgin Mary. During the 1600s churches used Christmas Trees to help teach the story of creation, decorating them with apples to represent the tree in the Garden of Eden. In the 1700s, trees decorated with gilded nuts and cookies were often referred to as “sugar trees.”?


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