Origin of the Christmas tree

By Andrew Pankratz
Times-News correspondent

   How did we get the Christmas tree?
Ancient Roman culture dictated that the people should honor the emperor by placing evergreen boughs around the entrance to their homes. Evergreens were also used in decorating for winter feasts. Because idol worship was identified with evergreen decorations, the Early Church condemned the practice, according to www.christianitytoday.com.
During the early Middle Ages, opinions began to change. Popular legend in Christendom revered the evergreen tree and associated it with Christ’s birth. And then there were the missionaries to the Germanic and Slavic tribes who taught that cultures could also be converted. In their efforts to reform the pagan culture, they condemned the pagan worship of various “gods,” but retained and Christianized some symbols. Evergreen decorations was one custom they kept.
   Legend credits Martin Luther with being the first to decorate evergreen trees with candles. Whether or not the story is true, the custom of candle-decorated Christmas trees soon spread all over Germany. Ornaments’ popularity increased as time went on. Soon Christmas trees were appearing in other places in Europe, according to Christianity Today.
Charles Dickens contributed to the acceptance of the Christmas tree. In 1843, his classic novel A Christmas Carol cleansed Christmas of the unpleasant connotations produced by drunken celebrations, which led to people viewing Christmas as a celebration focused on generosity and the family. So when the immensely popular Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert put up a Christmas tree in 1846, people in England and east coast America quickly followed suit and set up their own. The Christmas tree had come to stay.
Christmas gifts were not always associated with the Christmas tree. Christmas gifts, in the early Middle Ages, were generally taxes paid to rulers. In the 1500s, families began to exchange gifts with each other. Eventually, people tied gifts to the branches of their Christmas trees. It led to the continuing association of gifts with Christmas trees.
And that is how the Christmas tree became a part of our Christmas tradition.

Andrew Pankratz is a home-schooled high school sophomore and a Teens & 20s writer.

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