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.