Last year, I painted a Christmas tree or scene each day during the month of December. It was my way of evoking the Christmas spirit and celebrating the birth of Jesus.
Do you know when the tradition of decorating trees for Christmas was born? Me either, so I looked it up. It had its origins on a cold winter night in 1536. As the story goes, Martin Luther was walking through a pine forest near his home in Wittenberg, Germany. Looking up suddenly, he noticed thousands of stars glimmering like diamonds through the branches of the trees. The sight inspired him that Christmas to set up a candle-lit fir tree inside his house to remind his children of the starry heavens from which God sent his Son to save man from his sinful nature.
Word spread. The practice caught on. And by 1605, decorated Christmas trees were in vogue throughout all of Germany. How do we know? Well, in that year, an anonymous author described how the citizens of Strasburg set up fir trees in their parlor and hung paper roses, apples, wafers, gold foil and candies from the trees’ fragrant branches. Some folks brought box trees or yews inside to decorate instead of firs.
The custom persisted in Germany for more than 150 years before it spread across the English Channel to Great Britain. I’ll tell you about that in my next post.