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Christmas Trees

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Christmas tree history

A little background first about Christmas trees.  How did it all start?  Who thought up the idea anyway?  Did it all start with Martin Luther?  According to most scholars, apparently that's a misguided myth that was circulated and the first Christmas tree came about in Germany.  The records show that way back in 1521, in the Alsace Germany, an evergreen tree was decorated and used as a 'Christmas tree'.  Lights were not used till much later on in the piece.  The first Christmas trees were decorated with colored paper, fruit,, foil and sweet lollies.  With its introduction, came more popular use and eventually the Christmas tree tradition spread as early German migrants moved elsewhere but took their traditions and customs with them.  The popularity of the Christmas tree grew as the tradition was embraced by culture after culture.

Christmas Trees - the significance

Unfortunately as with most 'traditions' embraced by another culture, the significance behind the Christmas tree was not passed down and got lost as a result.  It is thought that with the winter months descending on Germany, evergreen trees are taken into the house as a symbol or rebirth (after all the rest of the garden seemed to be in 'hibernation'.  There is another school of thought that actually points to the fact that the Christmas tree has a Christian religious connotation linked to it.  Early on in the 11th century, 'mystery plays' were gaining in popularity right around Europe.  The significance lies in that one of these plays ie the 'Paradise play' had one single prop - a fir tree with apples hanging off it.  Depicting the fall of Man ie when Eve took the 'apple' (forbidden fruit) and ate and then offered it to Adam to eat.  In the end of the play where God put angels to guard the tree it also symbolized the 'Tree of Life' that was promised.  It was reasoned that from this started the tradition in Germany of having your very own 'Paradise tree' in your living room all decked out on the 24th of December.  Why the 24th?  Well, this was at that time the 'Feast Day' of Adam and Eve and so the Christmas tree was born - a symbol of both death (due to sin) and life (what God offers in Jesus).  Christians also have another symbolism attached to the Christmas tree as it reminds them of the 'tree' (the Bible often refers to the cross as the 'tree') upon which Jesus was crucified and took upon Himself the sins of the world.

Christmas Trees - your choices

The real Christmas tree

I personally never thought of owning a 'real' Christmas tree till I visited a friend who did have one in her living room.  The fresh pine scent just blew me away - it was in a word 'heavenly'.  If you have never given a real tree a thought before, do reconsider.  It is a real treat to have and if you buy a pot grown specimen you can keep it for another 2 years (another 2 Christmases) afterwhich it will probably be too large to carry in and out of the house and you can then plant it out in the garden.  The traditional Christmas tree is the Norway Spruce (Picea abies).  It has a nice compact dense shape when young.

How to choose a real Christmas tree (one that you can reuse for another year or 2) :

>1. You can pick any of the spruces but the traditional one is the Norway Spruce.  The ideal time to get it is some time in late October or November.  Pick one about 2 feet tall, a nice balance of branches and a strong root system (not root bound preferably).

2. Get a plastic flower pot which is at least 12 inches across.

3. Repot the Christmas tree in new potting mix and put it in a well-lit position (in partial shade preferably) outdoors.  Take care that you find a spot protected from the wind, you don't want it to blow over!  If you can't find a spot in the garden like that, then dig a hole in the ground in a shady garden bed and put the whole pot in that hole to keep it stable.  Ensure that the roots never dry out - watering 2 or 3 times a week is plenty.

4. When it's time to take the Christmas tree indoors (it can really only stand 3 weeks max indoors), stand the pot on a drip tray (otherwise you will have stained carpet).  Water 2-3 times weekly.  Decorate your tree and enjoy the gorgeous pine scent!

5. After about 3 weeks and after the festivities are over, move your Christmas tree back out TO THE SHADE.  Then after a fortnight you can then move it gradually to a partially shaded position and then later on into the sun.  This ensures that you don't 'tax' the tree too much.  The following year in mid November, start to move the Christmas tree from its sunny position to a semi-shaded then a shaded position before taking it indoors to decorate for the Christmas season.

The artificial Christmas tree

How you would pick your artificial tree would depend on where you are going to put it.  If you can't move furniture around and still want to add some Christmas cheer, the little miniature ones placed on the coffee table is a feasible and tasteful alternative.  Some trees come with the lights already on them - a real life saver - no more tangling with Christmas lights before and after anymore!  The latest ones are the fiber optic trees which add sparkle with little faint lights all through the leaves.  I find these really soothing to watch, especially when you dim the lights and the tree takes on a life of its own.  Don't get me wrong - I ADORE putting up decorations and Christmas lights, it's just taking them down that I dread...

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christmas trees
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