Thursday, 25 December 2008

The Christmas Tree

Legend has it that during the 7th century, Saint Boniface - a monk from Devonshire – was the creator of the very first Christmas Tree. He was sent to Germany as a missionary, with the aim of converting the pagans to Christianity. In order to stop sacrifices at their sacred Sonar Oak near Seismal, he chopped the tree down in 725 A.D. Supposably with one mighty blow, Saint Boniface felled the massive oak and as the tree split, a young fir tree sprang from its centre. Saint Boniface told the people that this lovely evergreen, with its branches pointing to heaven, was indeed a holy tree, the tree of the Christ Child, a symbol of His promise of eternal life. He instructed them henceforth to carry the evergreen from the wilderness into their homes and to surround it with gifts, symbols of love and kindness.

Incidentally Saint Boniface was later to become the Patron Saint of Brewers so sending him to beer loving Germany may well have been a masterful mission.

Luther is credited with hanging lights on the Christmas Tree. It is said that he was walking on a bright snow covered, star lit night pondering the birth of Christ. Enthralled by the evergreen trees, the stars and the landscape, he took a tree inside and put candles on it to represent the majesty he felt about Christ's birth as Jesus came down from the stars to bring us eternal life.
The first known decorated Christmas Tree however was at Riga in Latvia, in 1510. Tannenbaum songs date back to the late 1500's.

Decorating the Tree with tinsel is said to come from a legend about a poor old woman who was unable to provide decorations for her children's Christmas tree. During the night, spiders lodged in the tree and covered it with their webs. The Christ Child, seeing this, realized that the woman would be sad to see her surprise spoiled. He turned the spider webs into silver, and the next morning the poor family was dazzled by the brilliant "tinsel" that shone on the tree.

Although commonly believed to be Prince Albert, it was in fact Queen Charlotte, one of Kew's royal residents in the 18th Century, who brought the first ever Christmas tree to Britain from Germany, introducing the custom of decorated indoor trees to this country!

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