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Monday, December 15, 2008

Advent Blog: Day 12~ Christmas Trees

Yes, yes. I realize I am WAY behind in my advent blog postings... This weekend was chock-full of hectic holiday craziness. I am sure everyone can understand...

Friday I had the day off-- due to ice. This was great as I was able to get my cookies baked for the cookie swap... PLUS I did some laundry and finished decorating the cat tree and the Vegas tree.

So in honor of this, I decided we would look at this tradition of taking an organism normally left outside and bringing it into our homes.

The Story Of The Christmas Tree
People often wonder where the custom of having a tree in the home during Christmas time comes from. We will probably never know for sure. But there are several historical clues that point out where this custom came from.
An Ancient Symbol
Thousands or 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. 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.
The Modern Tree
So when did the Christmas tree go indoors? Legend has it that the tradition was begun by Martin Luther in Germany. He was a monk and church reformer who lived from 1483 to 1546. According to the legend, Luther was returning home one wintry night when he saw the stars twinkling in the sky through the tree branches. Luther was amazed by the sight, and when he arrived home, he was eager to tell his family about it. To help them understand, he went to the woods and cut down a small fir tree. Luther brought it indoors and decorated it with candles, which represented the stars he had seen.
The custom spread in Germany, and from there all over the world. In England, the Christmas tree first appeared when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert, who was German. In 1841, Albert set up a Christmas tree at Windsor Castle near London to remind him of his homeland. The Christmas tree custom was brought to the United States by people from England as well as by many German immigrants who came in the 1800's. Whatever its origin, the Christmas tree is a beautiful symbol for everyone who celebrates Christmas.
The Legend of the First Christmas Tree
The night of the Saviour's birth, all the living creatures, both flora and fauna, came to Bethlehem with gifts. The olive tree brought its fruit and the palm its dates. But the little fir tree had no gift and was so tired it couldn't resist when the big trees pushed it into the background and hid it from view. But then a nearby angel took pity and commanded a cluster of stars to come and rest on its delicate boughs. When the Baby Jesus beheld this lovely lighted tree, He smiled and blessed it, declaring henceforth that fir trees should always be filled with lights at Christmastime to please little children.

One of my aunts puts up a crazy amount of Christmas trees... Seriously, like 50 or 60... small trees, big trees, theme trees, tinsel trees, etc. I myself have more ornaments than I know what to do with-- THANKS MOM! My main tree is pretty cool-- it is a hodge-podge of ornaments from my childhood on to present times-- including ornaments made by and given to me by students. Typically I look for ornaments when I travel also. The cool thing about this tree is it rotates-- thus all ornaments can be seen.

I also have a Wizard of Oz tree. It is a white tree with red lights-- including some Ruby Slipper lights. The tree topper is a pair of glittery ruby slippers (Got that idea from my aunt who ALSO has a WoO tree)... Instead of a skirt, I spray painted some bricks gold and have those at the base. This tree has all my Wizard of Oz ornaments (DUH), and instead of tinsel I have blue and white gingham ribbon-- like Dorothy's dress.

The cat tree is one of my favs! It is a purple tinsel tree with blue and white lights. It is cram packed with all sorts of cat knick-knacks, books, photos, and ornaments. As I am the Crazy Cat Lady, I tend to get a lot of cat ornaments and such. I love all the ornaments I have with my present and past cats on them. Brings back some good memories.

This year I did a Vegas tree. Sadly it is on a small tree-- NEXT year it will have to be moved to a big tree-- as I have some serious plans for it! I only have 3 Vegas ornaments-- plus one of the Eiffel Tower that I put on there-- since we spend so much Vegas time at the Paris. I also hung pictures from this year's Vegas trip. I would like a bigger tree so I can put pictures from ALL my Vegas Vacations... as well as make "garland" out of playing cards... and I would like to rig a way to make some ornaments from dice. BIG plans I tell you!

I have various other small tinsel trees up too. This includes one SMALL one in the kitchen-- I leave it up year-round though. It has all food ornaments on it.

So far the cats have been good with the trees. The only real problem I have is Cleo eating tinsel-- then YAKKING it up on my bed, carpet, etc. UGH!

So there you have it! I enjoy my trees immensely... one of my favorite things about this time of year is sitting in the living room with all the trees plugged in. I love to just sit, enjoy the quiet, and reflect on Christmas memories preserved via my trees.

How many trees do you put up? Themes or random? Do you prefer real trees or artificial?

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