The Christmas tree is a festive tradition around the world. But how did it start? It may have its origins in Germany.
Pagans have been using evergreen branches and trees as part of their winter celebrations for thousands of years, but the first person to bring a Christmas tree into the house could have been 16th century German preacher Martin Luther.
Apparently, he was inspired while walking through a forest one winter night, looking up at the stars through the branches above. He found it so beautiful he went home and told his family it reminded him of Jesus who “left the stars of heaven to come to earth at Christmas.” This inspired the idea to bring a fir tree into the house at Christmas.
Jesus in the forest
Another Christmas tree legend from Germany begins with a forester and his wife warming themselves by their fire. They heard a knock on their door and outside discovered a child, all alone in the cold. They invited him in and gave him food and a bed for the night. In the morning they were awoken by a choir of angels and the child revealed itself to be Jesus and gave the forester and his wife the branch of a fir tree to say thank you. Since then people have brought fir trees into their house to remember that night.
Whatever the original inspiration, by the 19th century the custom had spread across Germany and beyond. Several royal Germans brought the tree decorating custom beyond Germany’s borders. The Duchess of Orleans (from Mecklenburg) brought it to Paris, while other Germanic royals brought the Christmas tree to England and other European countries. Emigrants from Germany are probably the ones who brought the Weihnachtsbaum to America.
Save the trees
Nowadays there are plenty of places to buy Christmas trees – little stalls spring up all around German towns in December – but they tend to be pricey. The Baumarkt is a good bet for a bargain tree, even Aldi are selling Christmas trees this year.
You can also go and chop down your own tree. Here’s a list of places where you can cut your own Tannenbaum:
Alternatively – buy a potted tree and plant it outside after the Christmas festivities are done. Or buy a fake tree that you can use year after year. You could also decorate a pot plant! As long as it’s green and twinkles, it’s good enough for Christmas.