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Some history of Christmas trees for those who might like to know- and Little Paxton’s trees

A little bit about Christmas Trees.

Thousands of years ago, there were people who believed that evergreen trees were magical. Even in winter, when all the other trees and greenery were brown and bare, the evergreen stayed strong and green. People saw the evergreen as a symbol of life and as a sure sign that sunshine and spring would soon return. Candles, or the electric lights we use to decorate our trees today, are also an ancient symbol. They represent the light of spring triumphing over the darkness of winter.

In ancient Rome, people decorated their homes and their temples with greenery during a special December feast called Saturnalia. It was a happy time. No battles could be fought, the schools were closed, and people everywhere joined in the carnival-like atmosphere and gave each other presents. Romans exchanged branches and twigs of evergreens as a good-luck blessing.

Many historians believe that the early peoples of Scandinavia were the first people to bring actual trees indoors-a mid-winter symbol of the promise of the coming warmth of spring.

The German Saxons may have been the first to light their trees with candles, and to adorn them with decorations-trinkets of good fortune. The tradition of the indoor evergreen was so strong in Germany, it’s believed that the first use of Christmas trees by Christians developed there, with some experts placing its origin as far back as the eighth century.

There is indeed a legend about a saint called Boniface . Boniface had been   “baptised “ in his home country of England with the name of  “ Wynfrith” which means “ friend of peace”. He later was given the name of Boniface by the then Pope before beginning his 35 years of missionary work in Germany in 719.

According to tradition one frosty night in December he was in a wood in Germany and found people worshipping the pagan God Thor.  Their worship was focused on a mighty oak believed to have supernatural power – but as  Boniface bravely cut down the oak it is said that  a tiny fir tree growing in its roots  was revealed.

Boniface saw this as the new Christian symbol. He told the people around him:

– “This humble tree’s wood is used to build your homes: let Christ be at the centre of your households.
– Its leaves remain evergreen in the darkest days: let Christ be your constant light.
– Its boughs reach out to embrace and its top points to heaven: let Christ be your comfort and your guide.”

So the fir tree became a sign of Christ amongst the German peoples, and eventually it became a world-wide symbol of Christmas.

Legend has it that Martin Luther, a monk and church reformer  began the tradition of decorating trees to celebrate Christmas. One crisp Christmas Eve, about the year 1500, he was walking through snow-covered woods and was struck by the beauty of a group of small evergreens. Their branches, dusted with snow, shimmered in the moonlight. When he got home, he set up a little fir tree indoors so he could share this story with his children. He decorated it with candles, which he lighted in honour of Christ’s birth.

We often think that the first Christmas Trees in England were due to Prince Albert introducing them, but in fact they came early in the 1800’s through the marriage of George 3rd and Queen Charlotte from Germany. I have it on first hand knowledge that Queen Victoria as a child was familiar with the custom. In her journal for Christmas Eve 1832, the delighted 13-year-old princess wrote, “After dinner…we then went into the drawing-room near the dining-room…There were two large round tables on which were placed two trees hung with lights and sugar ornaments. All the presents being placed round the trees..”.

After her marriage to her German cousin Prince Albert, by 1841 the custom became even more widespread throughout Britain. In 1847, Prince Albert wrote: “I must now seek in the children an echo of what Ernest [his brother] and I were in the old time, of what we felt and thought; and their delight in the Christmas-trees is not less than ours used to be”

Here are some pictures of the Little Paxton Tree Festival today:

First of all Pauline looking a bit worried as she discusses cake recipes with Leslie.

Below: The Freinds of Paxton Pits Tree

Trees in the south aisle with more cakes for sale

December 12, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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