Monthly Archives: December 2013

“Why three seasons? What happened to fall?”

Standard

Hekate

In very early times, around the Mediterranean where Western cultures first flourished, humankind thought that their food sources depended solely on the Earth and people divided the year into two seasons only – spring and autumn, the flowering and the fruit.  Later on, when the phases of the Moon became a way of measuring the seasons and determining times to plant, another season, winter, was added.  Since my story was set in ancient days – “once upon a time, long ago and far away” – I chose to have three seasons and three sisters who echo the ancient triple goddesses like Brigit and Hecate.

I suppose I should have called them Spring, Fall and Winter, but fairy tales come from an oral tradition.  Part of the art of telling those stories is to change the language and emphasis to fit the times and audiences. Summer contrasts more with spring and winter in our culture, than does autumn, which seems a more ambiguous and elusive season. So I chose summer, winter and spring as my seasons and my sisters.

Three Sisters: A Creation Story

Standard

3 seasons_0001

There were once three sisters, Spring, Summer and Winter, who loved each other very much.  They lived in a turbulent land full of smoking volcanoes and roaring rivers.  The countryside, subject to earthquakes, avalanches and floods, changed constantly.  But they were hardy children, the daughters of Titans – rugged, immortal and wild and they thrived in their tumultuous world.

Alas, their happy idyll could not last.  Unbeknownst to them, epic power struggles, played out on a cosmic scale across the breadth of the universe, were taking place as Titans went to war.  Near the end of the conflict, the three unruly girls, bound, gagged, but still defiant, were dragged before the Olympic high court to learn their fate.

“So you are the infamous nieces I’ve heard so much about,” roared Zeus.  “Your father begged for your lives on his knees.  I licked your mother’s tears from her cheeks as she cried mercy for you.  Look at you! Ragtail hoydens worth nothing, I wonder what they saw in you. “

Truthfully, the girls did resemble little goblins.  Their hair, matted with dirt and leaves had tangled itself into long stiff locks that stuck out from their heads in spikes; their dry chapped lips pulled back from sharp white teeth in feral snarls; rents in their ragged clothes revealed half- healed scratches, fading bruises, and a pattern of old scars that crisscrossed their legs from scabby knees to dirty bare toes.

He hesitated, pondering what to do.  The three girls were immortal, their ancestry divine.  The parents’ strengths had combined to breed true.  None of the girls had inherited the fatal flaws that allowed him to do away with his siblings.

“Since, you love your little planet so much, you will remain there forever!  Each of you will have a third of the year to do with it as you will.  But you can never meet again.  I won’t have you conspiring.  As soon as your time is up you will fall so deeply asleep and nothing will wake you until your turn comes round again.  Now go!”

He pointed a golden finger at the door but the girls sat down on the marble floors and began to wail piteously.  Tears ran down their cheeks in muddy rivulets washing the grime from their fine-textured skin.  As a glimpse of the girls’ true beauty shone through, a gasp of surprise travelled round the throne room.

Instantly, Zeus’s wife stepped between them, gathering the girls into her arms, pressing their wet faces into her ample bosom.

“Couldn’t they have just one day with me to say good-bye?” demanded Hera. “They need baths and supper.  They’ve lost their parents, after all.  Let me cut off this dreadful hair and fit them out with proper clothes.  These are royal children Zeus, blood of your blood.”

The more sentimental gods nodded in agreement.  A murmur of sympathy swept through the court.

“Fine,” growled the king.  He waved his hand negligently and Hera hurried off stage, dragging the girls along still clutched tight in her strong grip.

Once outside, she shoved them into the arms of her waiting maids.  “Take them away, shave their heads, clean them up, outfit them with sturdy sandals and cloaks and set them outside the gates at dawn.

Never return,” she whispered fiercely in each girl’s ear.

As it happened, their last night together fell on the winter solstice. Taking advantage of the reprieve granted by Hera’s jealous nature, the girls sat up all night, pooling their wisdom and weaving it into the inherent magic of the longest night.  They had many skills learned during their long sojourn on Earth; growing up they played with fire, water, earth and air.  They knew how to whistle the wind and tie it up in knots.  They knew how to speak the language of the birds, and they knew how to shape-shift, taking on the form of every living being that inhabited their home.

The next morning they were pushed off Olympus.  Shod in servant’s sandals, wearing cast-off clothes, they tumbled head over heels down the sacred mountain.  At the bottom they embraced for a long moment.  Thunder rumbled, lightening flashed.  Flipping defiant fingers at the mountaintop, each set out in a different direction; two of them hunting caves in which to pass the long months of enchanted sleep.

Winter trudged on alone.  She had a plan to follow; soil to prepare.  The days would be lonely, the nights lonelier, but with all three working diligently at their allotted tasks, eventually the Earth would bloom, life would flourish, humanity would arise.  And every solstice night, the magic they had woven and the disguise each had chosen would shield them from Zeus’s oversight.   Spring would appear as a young human; Summer, as an apple tree; Winter, as a white hare.  Every turn of the year, on the longest night, they would meet to celebrate their sisterhood and tell the stories of their season.  Together they would roam their world, consider all they had wrought, and call it good.

That’s the One!

Image

That's the One!

“THAT’S THE ONE!”

This is the story of the Little Prince’s first Christmas Tree.

Once upon a time, when the Young Prince was a tiny wee child his mother and father, Prince John and Princess Margaret, decided that they would go out and select his very first Christmas tree. Usually the trees that were cut and brought into the castle for the Winter Celebrations were selected by the King and Queen’s gamekeeper, but this year, this special year, the Prince and Princess decided to do the selecting themselves. They arranged for the red sleigh and a pair of dabble grey horses, Molly and Pie, readied.

The gamekeeper and the groom cleaned and polished the sleigh and groomed the horses. The Prince and Princess and the little Prince were dressed in their warmest winter clothes. They hurried out to the stable and climbed into the sleigh. The gamekeeper placed a huge white bear skin over their laps. “You have a fine clear winter day to go Christmas Tree cutting,” the gamekeeper said. “The best of luck to you. “ He gave Molly a slap on the rump. Prince John snapped the reins and Molly and Pie stepped forward. Soon the sleigh was moving smoothly over the snow, the bells on the horses jingled as they rode along. The sun was bright and the forest was near. Across the meadow, the royal family rode leaving behind a sleigh trail. The Prince knew just were he needed to go. He had talked to the gamekeeper early that morning. It was cold and crisp and everything was blanketed with snow from the snowfall of the night before. The forest trees had snow patches on their limbs. The little Prince was sound to sleep in his mother’s arms.

The Prince and the Princess commented on the beauty all around them. It wasn’t long after they had moved beyond the castle gates that they came to a huge Black Oak. “Grandfather Oak has lost all his leaves,” the Princess said. “He looks so different.” The large tree was the site of many a summer picnic. Next, they could see the small like. It was frozen over. Soon they would be entering the Pine Grove. The Prince knew the grove and he thought it a fine place to find the perfect Children’s Winter Tree.

The Princess had asked her maids to bring down the decorations from the storage room. “Put the one marked Children’s Tree in the Nursery. “ It contained all the special ornaments for the Little 1’s first tree. She had talked with the Cook earlier and knew that the kitchen staff was busy making cookies and dainties for the tree. She was thinking about the special decorations that were saved from her special first Winter’s tree. They were in the trunk with the Prince’s special trinkets from his first winter celebration. She remembered that on her first tree there was a jeweled star that her mother always placed on the very top. There were also shiny red balls that sparkled in the fire light. She was hoping that they could find a pine tree that was similar to the one she had as a child. She could picture the tree in her mind’s eye.

A woodsman’s axe was on the floor of the sleigh along with rope to tie the tree down. When they came to the grove of pines Prince John slowed the horses down. “Keep a look out for the tree you want,” he said. “Over there,” she said. The sleigh moved over near where she had pointed. The Prince got out, took the axe from the sleigh and headed to the small tree. “Stop,” said the Princess, “Now that I can see it up close, I think it is too small. “ The Prince got back into the sleigh and Molly and Pie walked on. The Princess turned her head this way and that. She considered all the trees she could see. “Let’s go over there,” she said, pointing down hill… The Prince turned the sleigh and headed the horses in that direction.  “What about that tree,” the Prince said. “I like that one,” he started to get out of the sleigh. “No, that won’t do,” the Princess replied. “It’s lopsided.” The Prince pointed at another tree. The Princess shook her head no. The Prince moved the sleigh again to a new location in the grove. “Do you see anything promising over here, my darling?” The Princess looked around. She frowned and shook her head no. The Prince snapped the reins and Molly and Pie pulled the sled farther and farther into the forest.  “Which one of these beauties shall we pick?” the Prince asked, stopping before a cluster of trees. The Princess handed the Little Prince to her husband and got out of the sleigh. She carefully inspected several trees. Came back to the sleigh and stated none of them would do. The Prince looked down at the little Prince and said, “My goodness, your mother is after an extraordinary tree.  It will have to be quite special,” the Prince said, handing the bundled child back to the Princess… Again, Prince John moved the sleigh. “There! Over there!” said the Princess. “That’s the One! That’s the perfect tree.”
The Prince got out of the sleigh, got the rope and axe and headed towards the tree. “Which one is it now?” The Princess was so excited she carefully laid the Little Prince down on the Bear Skin, making sure he was well covered and got out of the sleigh. “This one,” she said, pointing at the mid-size Pine Tree…

The Prince chopped down the tree and the two of them dragged it back towards the sleigh. The first snowflake softly landed on the Princess’s nose. “Oh, no,” she said. “We’d better hurry. It’s starting to snow.”  The two of them had been so interested in finding the Little Prince’s tree that they fail to notice that the sky had darkened and the weather had completely changed. The snowflakes fluttered down… Soon the snow fell like rain and they could hardly see the horses or the sleigh. The Prince and the Princess ran dragging the tree behind them. “The Little Prince,” Princess Margaret yelled, letting go of the tree and running for the sleigh. The horses were uneasy. Molly and Pie were straining at their harness and the red sleigh was being jerked this way and that.

The Wee little Prince with his soft rabbit skin cap was snuggled in his blankets. The Princess scooped him up and climbed back into the sleigh covering them with the bearskin. “Hurry,” she said, as the Prince tied the tree to the rails. The Prince called out to the horses, snapping the reins, “Take us home, Molly. You know the way Pie.” The horses pulled and nothing happened. The Prince stood up and worked the reins again. “Let’s go,” he called… Finally, the sleigh jerked forward. The snow was really coming down. “It’s a good thing we aren’t too far from the Castle,” said the Prince… The Princess and the Prince could hardly see the horse’s rumps the snow was coming down so hard. “I can’t tell which way to go, “the Prince said. “I’m hoping Molly and Pie know the way home. “The Princess held the baby close. “How is the Little Prince doing?” asked the Prince. “He seems fine,” said the Princess. She could see her breath as she spoke. Her lips were so cold it was hard to form her words. “I’m amazed that he is still asleep.  Look at his pink cheeks.” The Prince looked over and he could see the Little Prince’s rosy nose…
Snowflakes coated the Prince’s hat and beard. “Can you make the horses go any faster,” she asked. The Prince shouted, “Come on Molly, Come on Pie. Step it up.” The horses got into a rhythm just short of running and the sleigh sailed along. The Prince yelled, “We just passed the Old Grandfather Oak.” The Princess nodded her head.  We are almost home, she thought. “It’s a good thing the horses know the way because I can’t see very far. “. The ride was jerky and the sleigh bumped along but they were making good progress. The Prince knew that they needed to slow it down a bit or the sleigh could over turn. He talked sweetly to the horses reassuring them that they were doing a fine job. The red sleigh glided over the fields and through the Castle gate, across the meadow and into the courtyard. The gamekeeper was there waiting for them. “Hurry,” he said. “Get inside. I will take care of the horses, sleigh and the tree.” The Prince helped the Princess out of the sleigh. She had wrapped the little Prince inside her coat. They entered the castle and moved quickly to the fire burning in the huge fireplace.

“That was a close call,” the Princess said. “I’m so relieved to be inside were it is safe and warm.”
“How is the Little Prince?” Prince John said.
The Princess opened her coat, and then unwrapped the babe. His eyes opened, his little face puckered up and he let out a cry. “Look! We’ve disturbed him.“ The Prince and Princess looked at each other and laughed. “Now you cry, little one. You missed all the excitement,” the Prince said. “He is hungry,” the Princess said, leaving for the nursery with one of the Maids.

That evening the gamekeeper brought the Christmas tree up stairs. It was ready to be decorated. The trunk had been bought from the storeroom and sat open. Everything was made ready. The Princess came into the nursery and spoke to the gamekeeper. The Maids set to decorating the tree.  The tree was lovely. The cook brought up all the cookies and the dainties and they were tied on the tree.

The next morning the Prince, the Princess and the Little Prince came into the Nursery. The Little Prince sat up and clapped his hands. His eyes twinkled. The Princess got tears in her eyes. “It is perfect. This tree looks just like my tree when I had my first winter celebration. Later in the afternoon all the children around the castle would come to the nursery and sing songs. Then they would raid the tree and eat all the wonderful things that the cook and her staff had prepared.

The Prince smiled and handed the Princess a gift all wrapped in silk cloth with a wonderful green ribbon tied into a bow. “This is for you, my darling,” he said. The Princess opened the gift. It was a carved wooden red sleigh with two dappled gray horses that look a lot like Molly and Pie. The Princess kissed the Prince and put the carving near the top of the tree just under the sparkling jeweled star. “This is wonderful,” she said, giving the little Prince a kiss on his cheek. “When he gets older I will tell him the story of Molly and Pie and how they saved us and the perfect Christmas Tree.” The Prince put his arms around his little family and remember the day before when all depended on his dappled gray horses. He was grateful to Molly and Pie. Their Christmas Tree cutting could have come out so differently. “I told the gamekeeper to give the horses some extra oats,” the Prince said. “Yes,” said the Princess. “They deserve it.” The two loving parents looked at their son and at the Children’s Christmas Tree. The room was all decked out in evergreens.. The fire in the fireplace made the room warm and when they looked out the window they could see that the snow was still falling.

Kwan Yin and the Fox

Standard

Kwan Yin and the Fox

One foggy night, long long ago, Kwan Yin, Goddess of Compassion, was passing through the narrow streets of a small rural town on the banks of the river Mu. Smoke from cooking fires combined with the damp cold air to produce fevers and loud hacking coughs that shook the thin paper walls of the houses and caused the entire population to toss and turn in fretful sleep.  Kwan Yin moved tirelessly from house to house laying cool fingers on hot foreheads, dripping her sweet balm onto the parched lips of sick children.  With so much human misery voicing discomfort and fear it was astonishing that her ears picked up the faint whine of a distressed animal.

It was coming from beneath an old overturned rowboat on the banks of the river.  A bent oarlock kept one side barely raised above the mud, while the other lay half-buried in muck.  Bending down to peer beneath the boat, Kwan Yin spied two emerald green eyes glowering from a far corner.  The smell of blood and urine and the sharp musk of fox told her all she needed to know.  The animal had become trapped, who knows how many days ago; faced with starvation, unable to extricate itself, it had begun to gnaw at its own paw in a last desperate attempt at freedom.

“Hush,” she hummed. “Hush, now.  Lie very still.”

Grasping the edge of the splintering wooden boat, the goddess heaved with all her strength, but he boat refused to budge.  Dropping to her knees, she dug a small hole in the dirt.  Placing her lips close to the ground she called softly, “Izanami, Sister Earth, can you hear me?”

The ground trembled beneath her knees.

“Please, dear sister. Grant your unworthy little sister this one small favor.  You hold a rowboat, old and crumbling, painted blue, half-buried beside the River Mu.  It holds one of your living creatures captive.  I beg you to release the fox into my care.”

The sound of tumbling rocks grinding against each other rose out of the hole.  Kwan Yin listened patiently to the familiar grumble.  She knew the lecture by heart – “Stop interfering, taking every disaster to heart, attempting to change the natural course of things …”Finally, the lengthy tirade ground to a stop.  The hole snapped shut as the river bank gave a convulsive twitch and flipped the row boat up in the air.  It landed with a splash, half in and half out of the water, drenching Kwan Yin’s white kimono.

She shook out her wet robes and tore a strip off the bottom of her underskirt.  The fox bared its teeth as her hand approached the mangled paw, but the fight went out of him at her touch.  His heavy sigh, sounded like a sob, like giving up, and for a moment she thought him expired.  Then his pink tongue, rough as a cat’s, licked feebly, twice across her fingers.

At that moment lights appeared at the end of the cobbled lane.  Gongs sounded, men shouted, and cymbals clanged.  A shaman’s voice rose above the crowd, exhorting the angry mob to search out the fox spirit who had brought sickness to their village.  Scooping the fox up in her arms, Kwan Yin stepped quickly into the rowboat.  The sudden redistribution of weight dislodged the boat from its loose mooring.  A moment later a strong current seized them in its grip and bore them away.

Muffled in darkness with nothing to see or do, the unlikely companions soon fell fast asleep.  They awoke in the midst of a snow-covered forest.  The boat drifted along more slowly now, closer to the banks.  Once or twice, Kwan Yin managed to snatch a branch of frozen berries from an overhanging bush.  She fed them one by one to the fox along with mouthfuls of snow, melted in her cupped palms.

The fog had dissipated and though the days remained overcast, at night the skies cleared to reveal a strange star burning large, low and bright on the western horizon.  The beautiful compelling light seemed to be guiding them. The two companions took to sleeping during the day and sitting awake at night to sing and yelp at the beautiful sight.

As the fox recovered, his red fur began to shine and his nose gleamed shiny and black. The green eyes sparkled with mischief and his scraggly tail fluffed out into a glorious bush.  One day he spoke.  “Tonight is the longest night,” he said conversationally,

Kwan Yin glanced at him, “You needed have bothered pretending not to talk.  I can read minds and I speak the tongue of every sentient creature.”

The fox looked crestfallen for a second.  “I knew there was something funny about you – you never eat or drink.”

“What do you mean – the longest night?”

“You mean you don’t know everything?”

She shook her head.

“It means the year is changing.  Winter is coming, but at the same time the light returns, the days get longer.  Tonight is a magical time of transition. Anything could happen.  Perhaps, our journey will finally come to an end”

No sooner where the words out of the fox’s mouth when the boat bumped into the bank and stuck fast in a tangle of roots.

“It’s almost midnight, “whispered the fox.

“Somewhere, a baby’s being born, a radiant child, a special child.  I can sense the mother’s labor pains and feel her joy,” replied Kwan Yin.

Above them the star flared.  It shone on the snow shrouded trees where one bare branch burst into flower.

“Time to go,” said the fox.  He jumped into Kwan Yin’s arms, licked her face and jumped.  The snow flew up in flurries, sparkling in the moonlight.  She blinked and he was gone.

 

 

The Winter Crow

Standard

Brigit's Crow_0001

There was once a mad, bad, white, winter crow so impertinent and insolent and filled with such insouciance that nothing could humble him. Tiring at last of his disruptive nonsense, the Goddess Brigit set out to enchant him and he fell in love, promising anything for just one kiss.  Brigit, binding him with his own words, made him messenger to the gods.  From that day forth he flew back and forth between worlds, diving into the Below, soaring into the Above visiting the abodes of gods, elementals, angels, djinns and humans; observing innumerable acts of kindness, greed, compassion, love and terror.  At first his own feelings bewildered him – rage, pity and mirth cracked his heart open; tears of laughter, grief and frustration moistened it and caused it to soften and expand.  Gradually, Brigit, keeping her side of the bargain, tamed his feral spirit until he began to take pride in his job, venturing now and then beyond the strictly necessary to work his own magic on situations and circumstances in order to better the conditions of the beings he encountered on his errands.

Usually, the crow flew home to Brigit on Solstice night to celebrate the Return of the Light with her and all the other animals.  Deep within the forest they gathered in a grove of evergreens to sing and chant, honoring the Darkness, praising the Light; celebrating the mystery of Life and Death.  Over the years, humans had heard rumors of these rites. They had begun to imitate them, or at least the way they imagined them to be, by cutting living branches and taking them into their own homes to decorate with nuts and berries; making up their own songs and ceremonies for they, too, recognized the turning of the wheel of the year and wished to honor it.

This year was a special year, one of the rare times when the full moon coincided with Solstice, illuminating the longest night with her magical light. The crow was late and tired, but as he flew through the forest, determined not to be late to the convocation, his concentration was interrupted  by an oddly sorrowful creaking.

“It’s only the wind rubbing against the bare branches of that sleeping oak,” he thought, though it sounded like something crying. He flew on, but the sad sound followed him. Giving a weary sigh, he circled back and landed on a branch.

“You’re supposed to be asleep. Why aren’t you sleeping?” asked the crow.

“I’m lonely,” wailed the tree.  “My branches are bare. The people who love me in the summer for my delicious shade have gone inside, taking the evergreens with them, leaving me alone.  The evergreens are wearing the ribbons maidens wind around my trunk in May!  They are cradling beautiful red apples their needled branches never bore and flaunting the many nuts my cousins and I worked so hard to grow while I must stand here with only the cold North Wind for company, too far from the Brigit’s congregation to hear the singing!”

The crow shifted impatiently on the branch waiting for the tale of woe to subside.

“Everything has a place and a season and a purpose, “he explained, reasonably.

“But it’s not fair,” groaned the tree.

“Nothing’s fair,” thought the crow crossly. “It’s not how things work.”

A faint vibration ruffled the crow’s feathers – a padding of paws, a fluttering of wings as animals began to gather deep in the heart of the forest.  Suddenly he felt sorry for the poor silly tree; rooted in place; tossing and turning its branches; fretfully awake while his brother and sister trees dreamed sweetly of summer and the rest of the world celebrated.

“Listen,” he said suddenly.  “I’ll tell you a secret I’m not supposed to talk about.”

He dropped his harsh caw to a croaking whisper.

“The animals aren’t the only ones that sing tonight. All the planets join in and the stars keep them company.  If you are very still and quiet, you might hear them. The stars are good fellows, always ready to share a lark and a laugh.  They owe me a favor.  So stay very quiet.  No more moaning!  I’m going now, but be patient. Keep very still and wait to see what happens!”

Giving a jump he flew straight up the sky and circled the stars muttering a little rhyme.

                                                                              Little Stars, come settle down

                                                                              Upon these branches bare

                                                                              Glimmer soft this solstice night

                                                                              And pretty twinkles share.

One by one the stars dropped softly down, clinging to the tangled branches of the bare tree.  The Earth had begun to hum and the stars sang along in a sweet shrill counterpoint, voices rising to join the solar song.  The tree stood straight and tall, all his grievances forgotten, shivering with pleasure and delight; hung with a thousand points of lovely light.

Another Twist to the Tale!

Standard

abstract xmas tree        Language is originally and essentially nothing but a system of signs or symbols, which denote real occurrences, or their echo in the human soul.

CARL JUNG, Psychology of the Unconscious

This month we’ve decided to reverse our process and write our own tales based on the collages we create using the Christmas Tree motif.  We’ll take our inspiration either from the image as a whole, or from some detail within the picture.  Of course, we’d love it if you played along!  Send us a tale based on one of this month’s pictures or on a Christmas Tree inspired piece of art you created and we will post it with a link to your page.  Happy holidays to all whether you are celebrating Yule, Solstice, Hanukkah and or Kwanzaa or simply soaking up the ambience.  For those of you not so fond of this season, we suggest creating a piece that reflects those bleaker associations.  Sadly, the holidays can be a time of terrible strife and stress in some families and those scars can ache with every festive manifestation of the season. 

Solstice celebrates the dark as well as the light. Darkness, long associated in our culture with evil, distress and despair can also be a refuge and a comfort.  Human beings go crazy sicken and die with too much light and no sleep. Seeds need the dark earth in which to germinate and sprout; babies need nine months gestation in the dark cave of their mothers’ wombs; bears need to hibernate; trees need periods of dormancy. Learning to love, understand and embrace the dark within and without one’s can banish many fears. It teaches compassion, humility and forgiveness.

Here at Two Twitch a Tale we value the darker side of the tales for richness, resonance and reality.  We find no wisdom in a tale that does not include its shades and shadows.

December 2013 “The Christmas Tree”

Standard

For the Month of December we will be working with the tradition of creating a  “Christmas Tree”

Decorating an evergreen, usually fir, spruce, or pine is part of the celebration of Christmas and the Winter Solstice rites. The evergreen tree and its branches are often made into a wreath,  swag or garland  and  used to decorate the house, hall, store, barn  or building.  It is also placed in the town square. This month we will work with the evergreen tree and make up our own stories to accompany our collages. You might use the prompt, evergreen tree or Christmas Tree  and see what stories come up for you.

The Evergreen Christmas Tree

Here is a little history of the Christmas tree. Cutting down an evergreen tree and bringing it into the house is both a secular and a religious symbol of Winter and Christmas.

According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, “The use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands to symbolize eternal life was a custom of the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion to Christianity. It is a Scandinavian custom to decorate the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil. They also set up a tree for the birds during Christmastime.

Alternatively, it is identified with the “tree of paradise” of medieval mystery plays that were given on 24 December, the commemoration and name day of Adam and Eve in various countries. In such plays, a tree decorated with apples (to represent the forbidden fruit) and wafers (to represent the Eucharist and redemption) was used as a setting for the play. Like the Christmas Nativity crib, the Paradise tree was later placed in homes. The apples were replaced by round objects such as shiny red balls.  The entire tree didn’t come into the house until the 19th Century. However; it was common for an evergreen branch to be brought in, hung from the ceiling and decorated with edibles, like apples, nuts, cookies, colored paper, stars made of straw, ribbons, and wafers.  People believed in the tree‘s magical powers linked with harvesting and success in the New Year.

In the 1800 when George 111 married Charlotte, a German-born queen, the Christmas tree was introduced to the children. The tree became associated with children and gift giving. The custom of decorating trees in winter time can be traced to Christmas celebrations in Renaissance era guilds in northern Germany and Livonia, (present day Latvia and Estonia). The Guild Halls had a decorated tree with dainties that the children would collect on Christmas day. After the Protestant Reformation, such Trees are seen in upper-class Protestant families as a counter part to the Catholic “Christmas Nativity Cribs.”

In 1584, the pastor and chronicler Balthasar Russow wrote of an established tradition of setting up a decorated spruce at the market square where the young men “went with a flock of maidens and women, first sang and danced there and then set the tree aflame”.

By 1870 putting up a Christmas tree had become common in America. Russia banned the Christmas tree after the Revolution. It was reinstated as a “New Year Spruce in 1935.  It became a secular icon decorated with airplanes, bicycles, space rockets and other toys.