Christmas Tree

The evergreen fir tree has been used to celebrate winter festivals for thousands of years. Pagans used branches of it to decorate their homes during the winter solstice, as it made them think of the spring is about to come. The Romans used Fir Trees to decorate their temples at the festival of Saturnalia. Christians use it as a sign of everlasting life with God. Nobody is really sure when Fir trees were first used as Christmas trees. It probably started about began 1000 years ago in Northern Europe.
Origin
It dates back to the times when Christianity had not come into being- Trees and plants that remained green even during the winters had a special meaning to people. Just the way people decorate pine, spruce or/and fir trees during Christmas, in the ancient days, people used to hang evergreen boughs on their doors and windows. they believed that evergreen boughs will keep away witches and evils from their homes.

The Winter Solstice, that is the shortest day and longest night falls on 21st or 22nd December in the Northern hemisphere. The belief surrounding the Winter Solstice is that Sun, whom people consider as God, falls ill and weak during this time of the year. Thus, there is winter. They celebrate solstice because this marks the end of illness and that Sun god will start getting well. The evergreen boughs are a mark of life and good health. It means that life will be back soon.

The Ancient Egyptians decorated their homes with green palm rushes. They believed that God Ra, who has a head of hawk and a bore the sun as a blazing disk in his crown, recovers from illness during this time. Similarly, The Romans celebrated Solstice by decorating their homes and temples with evergreen boughs. They believed that Solstice means soon enough the farms and orchards will be green once more. They held a feast called Saturnalia in the honour of Saturn, the god of agriculture.

However, it were the Germans who first started the "Christmas tree" tradition like we know it today. As early as 16th century, Germans were the first to bring home decorated Christmas trees. The Germans believed that a 16th Century protestant reformer Martin Luther was the first to add lighted candles to Christmas tree. The story goes as- One day Luther was returning home while composing a sermon. On his way back, he was awed by the beauty of twinkling stars amidst the evergreens. Back in his home, he tried to recapture that beauty for his family by adding lighted candles to the branches of a Christmas tree.

Many legends exist about the origin of the Christmas tree. The story of Saint Boniface, an English monk who organized the Christian Church in France and Germany, is one such. One day, as he traveled about, he came upon a group of pagans gathered around a great oak tree about to sacrifice a child to the god Thor. To stop the sacrifice and save the child's life Boniface made the tree fall with one mighty blow of his fist. In its place, grew a small fir tree. The saint told the pagan worshipers that the tiny fir was the Tree of Life and stood for the eternal life of Christ.


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