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Bringing a tree inside the home and decorating it for the Christmas season, has been a tradition for many generations. However, there is no written record for the “first” Christmas tree.
Many people believe that Martin Luther was the first to place a tree inside his home. After seeing the beauty of the stars one clear winter night, he chopped down a small tree and attached bright candles to its branches, thinking he could bring the beautiful light inside.
Another “first” could have been when tradesmen guild halls were decorated with greenery during the festive season. Adding flowers, bows and their own works of art to the flora.
Religious groups also have ties to the tree, the Lutheran community decorated their churches and halls with trees decorated with nuts and paper flowers. As do the Catholics; a Christmas Eve Paradise Play featured the Paradise Tree, which was generally made from wood, but sometimes was replaced by an evergreen, decorated with apples.
No matter where the first Christmas Tree originated, there are still traditions of when and how the tree is decorated. An authentic German Christmas tree looks very different from the round bauble and tinsel filled perfection of the modern day era.
Traditionally the Christmas Tree is only put up on Christmas Eve, occasionally it became another “gift” to give to the children. Either in an event for the family to decorate together, or for the parents to assemble and place all the presents underneath, to surprise the children with.
First a rug or blanket was put below the tree (or table – if the tree was small) to catch the falling needles as they died, not over the bottom of the tree, like a skirt.
If the tree had strong branches, small candle holders were placed upon the ends and candles were lit. This was always only when there were people in the room, a lit tree was never (and should never) be left alone. For safety reasons, most people have swapped to LED and battery operated candles or lights.
Trees used to be filled with edible foods, such as apples, nuts and fruits, along with handmade paper flowers. When glass blowing was invented, the edible food was replaced with glass blown replicas of the foods
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On top of the tree a baby Jesus in a cradle was placed, however the tradition quickly changed as the precarious baby would fall often. It was replaced with a star or the Golden Angel (ChristKind).
While Tinsel was also invented in Germany and placed on the tree, It was very different from most types of Tinsel, which look like thick garlands of shiny plastic. Original tinsel was made from real silver that was pounded flat and cut into thin strips. These tiny thin strips were draped over the ends of the branches like icicles. You can buy this style of tinsel nowadays, usually in silver or gold foil, which can be gently placed over the tree. It takes more time, but is stunning when glittering in the light.
More modern day Christmas trees have sentimental ornaments, usually glass blown or handmade from straw. Very few Christmas trees in Germany have all matching colours or themed trees, with the majority of ornaments passed down the family or collected over years.
Bridal ornaments are also a newish tradition in Germany. Bridal Christmas ornaments are a collection of glass blown decorations, in the shape of animals and food. These ornaments are supposed to represent parts of life and are given to a newlywed couple to bring them joy and luck in their marriage.
Once the tree has been decorated on Christmas Eve, the tree remains in the house for the 12 days of Christmas, which ends on January 6. Also known as Epiphany, the day which the wise men were said to visit baby Jesus. However, some Catholic parts of Germany keep their tree up until February 2nd (Candlemas). Either way, it is bad luck to take down your tree before January 7th.
If you wish to start collecting or add to your collection of German made Christmas Decorations.