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The Origin of the Christmas Tree

Have you ever wondered why we decorate a tree for Christmas? What sense does it make? We cut down a perfectly good tree, bring it in the house, decorate it with glass balls, twinkle lights, embarrassing arts and crafts from our youth and put a big star on top - why? No one knows for sure. But the Christmas tree does have a long, if not mythological, history.

Get beyond the commercialism and secular nature Christmas has become and get down to the symbolism Christmas trees represent and you will get closer to the actual truth. The fir tree, the first tree widely used throughout Europe as a Christmas tree, was originally chopped down and placed indoors in an effort to promote good cheer and hope. When everything else on the horizon is dead and covered with mountains of snow, the Evergreen color reminded us of good things to come?the rebirth of the Earth at springtime.

In 1882 however, Thomas Edison's assistant decided to use his boss's invention to add a more "twinkly" effect to the Christmas tree - lights that ran on electricity. This innovation made outdoor Christmas lights possible as far back as the early 1900s. And don't you just know, even then, there was that one annoying neighbor down the street who refused to take his Christmas lights down until long past Easter.

But what about the tradition of the ornaments we decorated the tree with? You know what I am talking about... all the little doodads, candy canes, and the embarrassing arts and crafts your parents "insist" on putting on the tree every year - where did that tradition originate. Simple - all of those ornaments morphed from eight distinct decorations.

  • The Star - symbolically means, "The shining hope for all mankind."
  • The color red - red is used not just on trees, but also on nearly every other piece of Christmas decoration to come down the pike since the beginning of time. Red symbolizes Jesus Christ's sacrifice for all.
  • The Fir Tree - green, the second color of Christmas symbolizing everlasting light and life. The needles point up to Heaven.
  • The Bell - actually symbolizes the ringing of a bell more than the bell itself. The bell rings out to guide lost sheep back home.
  • The Candle (and later electric lights) - symbolizes our thanks to the star of Bethlehem.
  • The Bow - is tied as we should all be tied together in the bonds of goodwill forever.
  • The Candy Cane - symbolizes the shape of the Shepard's crook, used to bring lost lambs back to the fold.
  • The Wreath - symbolizes everlasting love with no beginning and no end.

But that still doesn't explain the embarrassing decorations we are forced to look at year in and year out. Where did that tradition come from? Simple - parents have been embarrassing their kids for generations - why should Christmas be any different.

Allen Shaw is a successful author who provides information on Christmas and Christmas trees. "I am the news director at USA News Network and have been working as freelance writer for 2 years. I've been published in a few magazines, newspapers and websites and my specialty up to this point has been movie and music reviews."

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