Truly a Renaissance Decoration
We are gonna tackle Christmas Trees from a couple of different directions. First we are going to look at the history tree worship and the use of evergreen trees in winter celebrations in ancient peoples around the world. Then we will look at the Renaissance practice of decorating said trees in their celebrations of Christmas.
Many ancient people used trees in their winter celebrations. The use of the evergreen tree was widely used throughout the world. From the lands of the Celts to the Egyptians and the Chinese, the use of the evergreen to celebrate the impending spring was huge. And though there were always many different ways to use the evergreen, whether it was bring branches into the house or ceremonies in groves of sacred evergreens, the people knew there was something special about those trees. They worshiped these trees and around these trees because of the fact that they were still green in winter. They saw the green that never went away as something to be revered.
In come the Christians with Rome into Europe. They saw this worship of the evergreen and they incorporated the tree worship into the ideas of Christianity. They saw the time period as a way to celebrate Jesus’ birth and to bring in the nature worship into the Christian parlance as well. So, the tree was brought inside, the trees were symbols of the resurrection of Christ the same way that the land was resurrected in the Spring.
But it is actually in the Renaissance that we find trees being decorated. The first people that decorated the trees were probably in the German area in the Renaissance. Guilds in those areas would bring branches, boughs and then whole trees into their homes and guild halls to celebrate Christmas. By the 18th century the custom of decorating trees was widespread and it is assumed that Martin Luther might have been the first one to put lights on a tree during the 15th and 16th centuries.
As you decorate, I am assuming that most of you already have, think of the people from the Renaissance that decorated their trees with handmade ornaments, with paper, with garlands of lace, with presents, literally hanging on the tree… and candles.