Saturday, December 15, 2012

Rhys's Tw elve Days of Christmas--Day 5

Christmas trees were brought to England from Germany in the early 19th Century when Prince Albert married Queen Victoria. In a country full of fir trees it was easy to find an evergreen to bring into the house. The early trees were decorated with dried apples, straw stars, carved angels, glass birds and instruments and candles--this made them a big fire hazard as the branches dried out.

Of course they didn't dry out as much in those days because the tree was only brought inside and decorated on Christmas Eve.  This was true when I was growing up. We bought the tree on my way to my grandmother's house and decorated it on Christmas Eve. In Germany the tree is kept up until twelfth night on Three Kings , January 6th.

Actually Christmas trees are part of an older pre-Christian mid winter celebration when greens were brought into the house and candles were lit at the longest nights of the year, to banish the darkness and remind folks that brighter das were ahead. In England the old song mentions the holly and the ivy. They were both brought indoors to decorate with, bringing a touch of bright green into the dark, dreary world.

And misletoe, of course--mistletoe, favorite plant of the druids--another pre-Christian tradition that we have incorporated into our celebrations, althougb I don't think those old druids used to stand under the miseltoe waiting to kiss anybody.

Those first Christians were not stupid. They tied in all their feast days to existing celebrations, so that people didn't feel cheated. This is how Christmas came to be celebrated on December 25th. Actually we don't know what time of year Jesus was born. But the early Christians thought it would be smart to incorporate this holiday with the Celtic midwinter celebration.

So when you put the lights on your Christmas tree, when you bring holly, pyrocantha, misletoe into the house remind yourself that you are carrying on a tradtion of several thousand years. Cool, huh? 

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