The Christmas tree is the most popular symbol of Christmas. It is normally an evergreen coniferous tree decorated with colorful lights and ornaments around Christmas time. Traditionally trees are brought to the house not earlier than Christmas Eve on 24th December and removed on 6th January i.e. day after 12th night.
The origins of the Christmas tree are traced to a Pagan custom where an evergreen tree symbolized renewal of life.
The modern custom, although probably related, cannot be traced directly to Pagan traditions. They are traced earliest to 1570 in Germany. A Bremen guild chronicle reports a decorated tree for the guild member s children. The custom entered homes in the 17th century. By the 18th century the custom was common in towns of upper Rhineland but not in the rural areas. Wax candles were now being used. However, it remained a Protestant custom. In the early 19th century it spread to Catholics of lower Rhine and then to Russia and Austria. In France the first Christmas was introduced in 1840.
Types of trees
Natural as well as artificial trees are used for Christmas.
The Abies species of fir are the best because they have a good scent and foliage and their needles do not shed when dry. The less traditional conifers used are Giant Sequoia, Leyland Cypress and Eastern Juniper.
Some trees are bought live with roots and soil, planted outside the house and used for several years. However the root loss due to digging and warmer and more humid indoor conditions shorten the life of the trees. Indoors they become dormant and unable to cope with the outdoor mid-winter weather. They should be kept indoors for few days to prevent such damage.
Naturally grown and unsheared trees are preferred in Europe while in U.S. close-sheared trees with denser foliage, but less space for decoration, is preferred. Shearing also spoils the attractive natural symmetry of the trees. Christmas trees, once harvested from the wild are now almost entirely commercially grown on farms in U.S.
Artificial trees are becoming popular now because they are cheaper and more convenient. These come in many colors and sometimes pre-decorated. The trees can be dis-assembled and stored. They are a necessity in apartment homes where dry natural wood pose a fire hazard.
Brush manufacturers using animal bristles made the first modern artificial trees and then moved towards plastic bristles and dyed pine green to make the needles. These were inserted between twisted iron wires to make branches. Later PVC was used. Artificial trees are becoming more realistic every year.
Decorating a Christmas tree
It s not very difficult. The tree should be rounded and have enough space for decoration but not to be seen through.
The lights should well cover the tree. If you want to use ornaments then have less lights and more sparkle. To give depths to the tree have some lights inside the tree hidden by the branches.
Next drop generous swags of garland between the branches allowing them to fall freely and gracefully.
A wide variety of ornaments depicting specific themes are available. Choose your theme to fit with the overall color scheme.
The topper, whatever it is, should be big enough to be seen.