Bringing evergreen trees indoors has traditionally been used to celebrate winter festivals — both by Pagans and Christians — for thousands of years. Pagans would decorate their homes during the winter solstice with tree branches as a symbol to think of spring that was just around the corner.
Fir trees were also used by the Romans to decorate their temples at the festival of Saturnalia, while Christians used it as a sign of everlasting life with God.
Other early Christmas Trees, across many parts of northern Europe, were cherry or hawthorn plants (or a branch of the plant) that were put into pots and brought inside so they would hopefully flower at Christmas time. If you couldn't afford a real plant, people made pyramids of woods and they were decorated to look like a tree with paper, apples and candles. Sometimes they were carried around from house to house, rather than being displayed in a home.
The first person to bring a Christmas Tree into a house, in the way we know it today, may have been the 16th century German preacher Martin Luther. A story is told that, one night before Christmas, he was walking through the forest and looked up to see the stars shining through the tree branches. It was so beautiful, that he went home and told his children that it reminded him of Jesus, who left the stars of heaven to come to earth at Christmas.
The custom of having Christmas trees could well have travelled along the Baltic sea, from Latvia to Germany. In the 1400s and 1500s, the countries which are now Germany and Latvia were them part of two larger empires which were neighbours.
Folklore offers a number of different explanations for the meaning of the tree. Some suggest that it was inspired by the paradise tree, a symbol of the Garden of Eden that featured in a medieval play about Adam and Eve. Others believe the Christmas tree evolved from Christmas pyramids, wooden structures decorated with evergreen boughs and religious figures. Cusack doesn’t believe there’s any substance to those theories; instead, she says, “The Christmas tree was intended to be religiously neutral in the context of Christianity.”
Much like the very early Christmas trees, we still decorate ours with baubles and hang them with lights. Buying a real Christmas tree is still a tradition for many families, but over the years we have seen an increase in the number of artificial trees, especially pre-lit Christmas trees, as people opt for fuss-free, low maintenance trees that they can reuse every year.
We've also seen decorations take a more extravagant turn, with trends such as rainbow trees, sunflower trees and multi-coloured 'party' trees shaping the way people decorate, as well as wooden Christmas trees and twig trees. These alternative trees gain more popularity each year, and some households are ditching trees altogether, instead choosing to decorate a houseplant as a Christmas tree.While wreaths, stockings, and your classic well-appointed pine tree are de rigoeur this time of year, your decorations can always use a refresh.
To help kick-start your inspiration, I want to show you a few beautiful ideas that you can adopt to your own style and preferences. From minimalist and natural decorations to glitzy accessories to an innovative alternative to your favourite holiday staples, for sure you’ll find something to make your spirits merry, bright, and so beautiful.
...because this is the holly jolly Christmas.