Monday 20 November 2017

The story of the Christmas tree

Catherine Collins

According to legend, the Christmas tree was the brainchild of Martin Luther (pictured below), the famous German religious reformer, who lived in the 16th Century.

Luther was walking home through an evergreen forest one night in the middle of winter. Looking up to the sky he saw stars twinkling through the needle-like branches. As soon as he got home he brought a fir tree into his living room and placed candles on it to show his family. He told his children that the lights on the tree should remind them of the sky, the stars and of heaven.

The Germans took up this custom and added to it by tying coloured paper and sweets to the trees. In different parts of Germany some people decorated the branches of yew trees instead of firs.

It was Queen Charlotte, the German wife of George III, who first brought the tradition of the Christmas tree to the UK and Ireland. She often decorated a small yew branch for Christmas, but in 1800 she was throwing a party for the children of Windsor and decided to decorate an entire tree.

The tree was covered in "sweetmeats, almonds and raisins in papers, fruits and toys" and was lit up by "small wax candles". By all accounts the children loved it.

Of course, today when we are decorating our trees we don't use candles at all, we use electric lights instead. Thomas Edison invented electricity but it was his partner Edward Johnson who was the first to put electric lights on his Christmas tree in 1882.

A staggering 60 million Christmas trees are sold in Europe each year.

Catherine Collins

Irish Independent

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