If you wander through the houses in Berlin’s international neighborhoods in the run-up to Christmas, you will be surprised by many a very whimsically decorated Christmas tree. Because the German Christmas tree tradition has undergone quite a few changes on its journey around the globe – and in many countries, the missing needles are replaced with a fair amount of creativity.
Show me your Christmas tree, and I’ll tell you where you come from: Since the Christmas tree began to spread from the 15. As Christmas trees have spread from Germany to the rest of the world since the nineteenth century, its traditional decorative and arboreal species have undergone curious changes over and over again. Often here was acted from a state of emergency. After all, fir trees don’t grow everywhere in the world, and the southern hemisphere celebrates Christmas in high summer. In India, for example, you can stumble across decorated palm trees, and in Japan, ornate metal trees that look only very, very remotely like the fir tree with its candles that is so classic in Germany.
Palm trees and seedlings used as Christmas trees
In many countries where fir trees cannot grow, people have grown their very own Christmas trees. While in India and Bangladesh simply banana palms and their leaves are used as decoration instead of fir branches, also in Ghana and Liberia palms are often decorated instead of firs. In Lebanon, on the other hand, people even make their own little "Christmas trees": Here, pea or bean seeds are used to grow seedlings of cotton balls, which by Christmas have reached about 15 cm in size and are used for Christmas decorations.
Many countries also resort to artificial Christmas trees for lack of fir trees. Curiously, this custom also originated in Germany. In the 19th century, the first artificial Christmas tree was made here from goose feathers dyed green. Today, artificial Christmas trees tend to be made of plastic, but also of metal or feathers. Artificial Christmas trees are widespread not only in the USA and Canada, but also in countries without fir trees. In South America and Australia, they are often decorated with cotton balls to simulate snow.
Small works of art: Japanese "light trees
In China and Japan, Christmas is celebrated in a similar way to Halloween here in Germany. Although the countries have no Christian traditions, it is chic to have an artificial Christmas tree. The is called here "light tree" and is accordingly often decorated with artfully crafted small lanterns. And even in Egypt, the Christian minority celebrates with plastic firs. In Kenya, children are not only responsible for decorating the artificial fir trees, but also for cleaning up after Christmas.
In Senegal, Christmas trees can even be found in mosques: the Islamic country honors its Christian minority by placing the artificial trees in their mosques. Although only 95 percent of the population is Muslim, all Senegalese celebrate a little Christmas.
Peculiarities in decoration: straw and flags
The countries also differ considerably in terms of decoration: Hardly any country is as adamant about using candles for lighting as Germany is. Instead, strings of lights and small lanterns are widespread as ornaments all over the world. In Denmark, the trees are traditionally decorated in red and white according to the colors of the national flag, and "flag trees" are also widespread in the USA. In the Balkan countries, on the other hand, people still do a lot of handicrafts in the run-up to Christmas: the little works of art made of straw that decorate the branches are often made by the children themselves.
Norway is the country in the world where people still go out and cut their own Christmas tree for the most part. Much more common are Christmas trees from forestry and artificial Christmas trees. By the way, they are slowly making their way into Germany as well: according to a 2012 statistic, 60 percent of Germans have a Christmas tree; 43 percent of these trees are real firs and 17 percent are artificial. Within these, there are great aesthetic and qualitative differences. Thus, in addition to the often artificial-looking trees available for purchase in supermarkets, there are also offerings that look confusingly similar to real fir trees.