Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Ancient History of The Christmas Tree, article in the American Florist 1913

The Ancient History of The Christmas Tree, article in the American Florist 1913

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Who invented the Christmas tree? Whence does it come? It is a curious fact that most of the old chroniclers have thrown a veil of mystery around the Christmas tree, and make no attempt to explain its origin.

It has been stated that the tree came to us from Egypt. This legend is well propagated in old Irish and Welsh fairy tales. The idea is that in ancient Egypt they used a slip of the palm tree with twelve shoots on it at certain winter festivities. The tree symbolized the year with its twelve months. Certainly the Jews use full branches of the palm tree at certain of their feasts even to this day.

Consequently, any one who is equal to the effort may believe that the modern Christmas tree represents that twelve shooted slip of palm. Minds of less stalwart credulity may prefer to trace the Christmas tree back to Germany only, where they had Christmas trees long before they were ever heard of in England or France.

The Christmas tree, many authorities. as we have said, think, came into England from Germany after the marriage of Queen Victoria to her German consort, Prince Albert. This probably arises from the fact that the Christmas tree idea is regarded as older in Germany than here. S. J. Adair Fitz-Gerald says that far away back in the ages you find Teutons believing in a mystic ash tree. Yggdrasil. which, with its roots and branches, united the world of the living and the world of the dead. “At the foot of Yggdrasil sit the three Norns, who determine the destinies of men, and Yggdrasil's branches bear gifts for men to take." The tree was probably first imported into Germany with the conquering legions of Drusus. It is alluded to by Virgil in the "Georgics."

Teutzel of Saxony, an antiquarian authority, says: "The ancient heathen sat before their houses between two crossed pine trees and ate and drank at the turn of the year for nineteen days." May this not have been the origin of the Christmas tree, and who knows of the Gothic window likewise? Thackeray and Dickens, and a variety of other authors, have taken Christmas gatherings and the Christmas tree, poetized them, and perhaps exaggerated the custom in a kindly way, and led us astray about the origin of the practices of Christmas.

But Christmas was not celebrated in the first centuries of the Christian era and there are indications in the records of early Roman history of the setting up of a decorated tree at Christmas time and the presentation of gifts of fruit and toys. The Romans themselves are supposed to have taken the idea from the early Egyptians.

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