The Unexpected Truth about the Christmas Trees and Their Decorations
Each year we decorate a tree with tinsel, Christmas lights, baubles, and ornaments, without really stopping to think about why we’re doing it – and frankly how weird the whole thing actually is.
Since you’re reading this, you may have had a sudden curiosity as to why on earth we drag trees into our homes during the holidays.
Well luckily for you, we’re here to explain what does a Christmas tree represent, and why we spend hours each year making it look beautiful.
… Only to take it down again in a few weeks!
What Does A Christmas Tree Represent?
Christmas trees were first used as a pagan religious symbol, to ward away evil spirits during the cold winter nights.
However, they weren’t at all like what we’re used to in today’s world.
As trees were hard to come by, more commonly people would use wood to create a pyramid shape and decorate it with paper, candles, fruits, and nuts to resemble a tree.
The purpose of these small trees and pyramids was to ward away evil spirits!
Eventually, they came to represent good health, and in the 16th century, it became a symbol of celebration and nobility.
To better understand more about the meaning behind Christmas trees, let’s take a brief look at their history.
History of The Christmas Tree
They’re now a staple in homes across the world, but where did they come from?
Because the pagan tradition is so far from how we now use these special trees, Christmas trees were often associated with Germany in the 12th century.
In Germany, the trees were displayed as a small tabletop decoration or centerpiece. They were introduced to England in the early 19th century and popularised by Prince Albert, who was born in Germany.
The family would decorate the tree with toys, small gifts, candles, ribbons, and fancy chains (sound familiar?!).
Christmas trees were taken to North America as early as the 17th century by Germans, and they became the height of fashion by the 19th century.
As cross-country trading became easier, larger trees from Norway were all the rage and people began to buy larger trees to place on the floor.
If you’re enjoying this festive history lesson, carry on the fun with our Ultimate Guide To the History of Christmas Trees!
Is a Christmas Tree a Religious Symbol?
Although we now associate Christmas with Christianity, trees and plants were used to celebrate winter festivals for thousands of years before the advent of Christianity.
This is because evergreen trees were associated with the eternal nature of God.
Nowadays, Christian’s celebrating the religious holiday sometimes find religious symbolism by associating the triangle shape of the tree with the holy trinity.
The History and Meaning of Christmas Tree Decorations
Now we’ve covered where the Christmas tree tradition came from, let’s get into the fun bit – the decorations!
Where Did Christmas Tree Decorations Originate From?
Although festive traditions vary slightly from household to household, one almost unanimous thing is the decorating of our trees.
But, there are conflicting theories as to where this all started.
As we mentioned before, the pagan’s used to mimic a tree by decorating a wooden pyramid with fruits and nuts. It could be argued that this is why we put ornaments on our trees.
However, some people think that ornaments on Christmas trees are from the 16th century when Europeans would decorate trees with apples to symbolize the story of Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit.
Why Do We Put Ornaments on a Christmas Tree?
Although the origin of Christmas tree ornaments is up for debate, one certain thing is the role the Victorians had in the popularisation of going all out for Christmas.
Almost everything about Christmas we know today was invented by the Victorians.
Read more about their festive traditions in our Ultimate Guide To Victorian Christmas Decorations.
What Does the Star on the Christmas Tree Symbolize?
Nowadays, you can use pretty much anything as a tree topper.
From ribbons and bows to cupcakes, Santa Claus, or family photographs – every home has a different approach to their tree topper, and that’s what makes them so special.
Even with all these options, the most popular choices are still the traditional toppers like the angel or star.
A star represents the bright star of Bethlehem which appeared in the sky to guide the Three Wise Men to Jesus’ birthplace.
Angels represent the Christmas angel, Gabriel, from The Story of the Birth of Jesus in the Bible, and the significance of the angels which appeared in the sky above Bethlehem to announce the birth of Jesus Christ.
Why Do We Decorate Trees With Garland and Tinsel?
Before the 19th century, tinsel was more commonly used for decorating sculptures than Christmas trees.
People then began adding sparkly decor pieces to their holiday trees to enhance the flickering of the candles (or lights) on their trees.
Some people argue that tinsel is used to represent the starry sky over a Nativity scene.
As for garlands, these are purely decorative!
Why Do We Put Lights on a Christmas Tree?
As Christmas trees and their decorations were growing in popularity during the 16th and 17th centuries, people would use candles to represent the light of Jesus (or maybe just to look pretty).
The candles would be attached to the branches of trees. As electricity was invented and people realized it was much safer to use bulbs than open flames in their homes, Christmas tree lights took off in popularity.
What Does A Christmas Tree Represent FAQs
What is a Christmas tree’s scientific name?
There is actually more than one kind of tree that’s used as a Christmas tree. The most common Christmas tree’s plant names are the blue spruce, the Norwegian spruce, and the Douglas fir.
What Is the Meaning of a Christmas Tree in the Bible?
Although there is no mention of Christmas trees in the bible, they are sometimes seen as symbolic of Jesus dying and rising again in the same way the tree is cut down and then displayed and admired.
Final Thoughts on the Unexpected Truth About the Christmas Tree
Who knew there was so much today about what a Christmas tree represents?!
It’s nice to know that when we all stand around putting up a tree and decorating it that there’s actually some meaning behind it.
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning all about the significance of these festive firs, and the reason behind all of their wonderful decorations.
If you’ve enjoyed this guide to trees from Open For Christmas, then you might like some of our related posts listed below.
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- History of Christmas Trees: The Ultimate Guide
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- When Should You Put Up a Christmas Tree?