Origins of the Christmas Tree
The use of greenery and lights at Christmas goes back to the celebration of the Kalends of January in ancient Rome. Kalends was a celebration of the Roman New Year when people gave each other gifts of green boughs, honey treats, lamps for light and warmth, and silver and gold objects (The latter probably being the most popular.) They also trimmed trees with trinkets and toys during Saturnalia, and put candles on them to indicate the sun’s return to earth.
The Druids honoured Odin by tying golden apples and other offerings to tree branches, and set lighted candles on them.
Christians used candles symbolizing Christ as the Light of the World, seemingly a combination of Roman and Hebrew customs, while people in the Middle Ages put lighted candles in their windows on Christmas Eve to guide the Christ child on his way. No stranger was turned away, because it could have been Christ in disguise.
Glass balls are the traditional choice for decorations to be hung from a Christmas tree. Hollow glass spheres were believed to have the ability to keep ill fortune away, and hundreds of years ago used to be hung in windows to ward off evil spirits which were thought to be banished by the ball’s reflective beauty. According to some, the candy cane “J” shaped treat can be traced back to the birth of Christ. The shepherd’s staff, it is said, was the inspiration for the candy cane.
Whatever the reasons for our beautiful Christmas trees, Christmas just wouldn’t
be the same without them.