Every year, a very special tree finds its way into German households. Meant is of course the Christmas tree, or Christbaum, as it is still called. It is adorned with colorful fairy lights, baubles, candles and other colorful decorations.
Together with family, friends and neighbors enjoy the Christmas season with a cup of cocoa, coffee or tea, with cookies, stollen and cake. The four weeks around Advent are welcome to prepare for Christmas and better survive the cold season. What must not be missing at Christmas is, of course, the beautiful Christmas tree!
Snow and fir tree belong to Christmas
The history of the Christmas tree
Since humans – if we assume that they are descended from the apes – descended from the trees, they have a certain affinity for these plants. It is therefore little wonder that even religion can not get past the trees. The tree symbolizes the seat of the gods, life, it is intoxicating and medicinal. The ancient Romans, Germanic tribes and Celts decorated trees in winter with boxwood, spruce and fir branches, hoping to drive away demons and attract good spirits (Skriver, Carl Anders: Der Weihnachtsbaum, Geschichte und Sinndeutung, Munich 1966). S.49). Since the 12. Century are from the Rhine country outgoing Krippenspiele provable, which concentrate however not on Schaferstundchen or hostel search, but tried to span an arch by the undergrowth of the redemption. The depiction of the Christmas Gospel pondered a paradise game in that Adam had to pick the fruit from the famous Tree of Knowledge. Adam brought death with his deed as is well known, with the birth of Jesus Christ followed the new life. In the paradise game, the tree should be as tempting as possible to entice the person playing Adam to pick the apple. No wonder that the Adam’s trees became more and more magnificent and had many shiny apples.
Starting with the 14. century, these mystery plays have been moving away from the liturgy and thus from the church. This development brought certain freedoms with it. The oldest tree outside the paraliturgical scenery dates from 1419. In Freiburg im Breisgau, such a tree was set up in a hospital by the Brotherhood of Bakers’ Servants – beautifully decorated with apples, gold strips, gingerbread and colored nuts and paper. Beginning with this year, there are always reports about such customs. In the Ship of Fools Sebastian Brand mentions that in 1494 fir branches were decorated in homes. An organized sale of Christmas trees took place in Strasbourg in 1535. 26 years later, the Upper Alsace Forest Ordinance allows every citizen to have permission to cut down a fir tree eight shoes high (Handworterbuch des deutschen Aberglaubens IX, SP 913 ; Nachtrag Art. Christmas). The first Christmas trees were sold from 17. Christmas tree enters private households centuries later. At that time, only city dwellers and aristocrats could afford this luxury.
Even the little ones like to help choose the fir tree
However, it took until the 19th century for the Christmas tree to gain its current popularity. Century. The deciding factor was a series of marriages: Henriette von Nassau Weiblingen, beginning in 1816, staged the Christmas tree as the center of the family Christmas in the context of her wedding to the hero of Aspern, Archduke Karl. To her first child she hung a new candle on the tree for each month of the year. But even at that time, the Christmas tree continued to be an upper middle-class or aristocratic accoutrement of festive culture. The industrialization of Christmas tree decorations began around 1831, when Johann Simon Lindner produced the first Christmas tree hanging made of lead-coated glass. 35 years later, the first patent for a cast-iron Christmas tree stand is issued. 1882 the first electric Christmas tree candles are produced in the USA.
The Christmas tree today
Today, Christmas trees are mass-produced goods that generate large sales every year. In Germany, sales of Christmas trees have been growing for years.
As the table shows (source: HDH), 24 million Christmas trees were sold in the new millennium, six million more 13 years later. According to the Federal Statistical Office, some of the Christmas trees come from imports: Germany imported around two million Christmas trees in 2013.
Import-export of Christmas trees
At the same time, the Federal Republic exported just over 800.000 trees. In 2005, the import of trees was much higher, with almost three million specimens, while exports were half as large. Away from the origin of the Christmas tree, its symbolism has also changed today. Green and colorful room decoration is about lifestyle and assimilation. Goethe raved about his fir tree in the glow of lights in his day. However, the occasion of Christmas is often forgotten, namely the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. It is no longer a rarity that even people of other religions put up a Christmas tree. Even in Japan, people celebrate this Christian festival and wish their friends Merī Kurisumasu, although the customs in the Land of the Rising Sun no longer have much to do with Christmas. So the Japanese not only like to give gifts, but spend X-Mas at KFC. Of course, there are still many people who have not forgotten the true meaning of Christmas. And these can hardly wait to decorate their Christmas tree.
Christmas trees today come mainly from tree nurseries
Modern Christmas: Rent a Christmas tree and protect the environment
The annual custom of cutting down a healthy tree, placing it in your living room and throwing it away after a few weeks has been encountering increasing problems for centuries. People are very critical of this wasteful tradition. A Dusseldorf start-up now wants to change this trend. Happy Tree is the name of the fir in a pot, which is available from the company. The company picks them up after Christmas and plants them until the next celebration. If you are fond of your fir tree, you can get exactly the same one next year.
Buy the perfect fir
Apart from the sustainable solution, which is currently only possible in the Cologne-Dusseldorf area, all other people have to buy their fir locally. There are inexpensive red spruces available in DIY stores and supermarkets, whose branches are strong and can carry heavy weights without any problems. Their disadvantage is the short life: more than a week they usually do not last. Also, its uneven growth does not necessarily make this fir an eye-catcher. A more noble but also more expensive alternative is the blue spruce, which stays fresh for about two weeks and gives off an intense, pleasant and fresh scent in the living room. The branches of these trees are also strong. More popular than both previously mentioned trees are the Nordmann firs. It stays fresh for up to four weeks and has soft needles. Their scent, however, is somewhat less intense than that of the blue spruce. Those who want to save the money for the fir and cut it themselves in the forest, be warned: as previously mentioned, this used to be allowed in certain regions. Today, however, the unauthorized cutting of the tree is theft and punishable by law.
There is no accounting for taste
As old as the custom of decorating the Christmas tree is, as different are the tastes and customs around the Christmas tree decorations. In some families there is a tradition of decorating the tree in the same colors every year. Others, however, love to try new combinations every year. Whether you end up using the tree ornaments that have been used for generations or let your kids do the crafting: There are some basic rules when decorating the Christmas tree. Few families grow their own tree in the garden or use a fir that was cut in the forest. Many families buy their fir from the Christmas tree dealer around the corner. This is usually wrapped in a net and can thus be transported home more easily. In order for the tree decoration to hold without problems, the fir should first be freed from the net one day before it is put up and left standing. The next day, when the tree is decorated, an old tablecloth or oilcloth should be placed under it. On the one hand, you can use this area for the gifts. On the other hand, the ceiling collects fallen needles. Also candle wax does not drip so directly on the floor. In order to have as long as possible joy in his Christmas tree, the Christmas tree stand should be abundantly filled with water. Furthermore, the stand should be non-slip and stable so that the tree cannot topple over. The Christmas tree should not be placed near a heater or other heat source. Most tree varieties also do not tolerate drafts.
Decorate Christmas tree: baubles and chains are classics
Properly attach the tree ornaments
Once the tree is up, you can start to put the Christmas tree decorations on it. Those who use an electric light chain should attach it first. The individual lights should be placed outside. After putting it up, people should test the string of lights. Defective lights can now be easily replaced. Next come the Christmas tree balls, which usually come in different sizes. The large baubles go at the bottom, the small ones at the top. Depending on the shape and growth of the fir, it should be decorated so that it does not appear too crowded or too empty. There are no limits in terms of color choice. Here each family and each culture has developed its own tradition. Classical are the Christmas colors red, gold and white. A mix of shiny and matte baubles usually looks very classy. The Americans, on the other hand, love to overload their tree. They do not do without sweets: Straw stars, gingerbread and Co. may not be missing at the Christmas tree. The tasty sweet tooth delights the children, of course. This year, by the way, there is a new trend: owls. They were already popular for Halloween and may also hang on the Christmas tree this year. Finally, you attach the candles including candle holders to the branches.
Especially for the candles there are some safety tips, which are covered in the final paragraph.
Safety tips for the Christmas tree
When decorating the Christmas tree, only a few people think about the safety of their own four walls. What should happen after all? Fires are unfortunately not uncommon with the Christmas tree. 10.000 fires occur in Germany every year. Once the fir tree is on fire, not much can be saved. The decoration is ruined, the gifts usually too – and in the worst case the apartment goes up in flames. The needles and the dry wood of a fir are easily inflammable. The fire produces temperatures of 600 degrees Celsius, which 400.000 needles burn down within minutes.
For this reason, the Christmas glitter with candles is not recommended. In the past there were no alternatives. But as mentioned in the section on the history of the Christmas tree, there have been electric candles since 1882. But even these are not always 100 percent safe. Therefore, below are some tips to avoid a fire:
- The tree should be bought as late as possible. Although one renounces in such a way a large selection, for it the tree is safer. It is important to supply the tree with water even after purchase. This not only keeps the tree alive longer, it also protects it from drying out and prevents it from catching fire so easily.
- Burning candles should never be left unattended – neither on the fir nor anywhere else in the home. The candles should always be replaced in time.
- The candles should sit stably on the branches of the fir tree and have enough distance from the twigs and tree decorations.
- Under the tree with burning candles should not be positioned gifts.
- A fire extinguisher should be ready for the case of all cases at best in the proximity.
A safe alternative to the classic candles is the electric light chain. This is draped in the inner tree branches – as evenly as possible – to make the tree shine in beautiful colors. Away from the classic yellow and white color, which is supposed to imitate the glow of candlelight, there are now also colorful strings of lights. There is also a certain fire hazard here, especially with old or cheap fairy lights. Therefore one should control the cables annually.