Celebrating Christmas without a richly decorated Christmas Tree would not seem right today. But why do we have a Christmas Tree, and how did it originate?
Back in the 7th century a monk from Crediton, Devonshire, traveled to Germany to spread the Word of God. Legend has it that he used the triangular shape of the Fir Tree to describe the Holy Trinity of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit to the German people. The German people started to revere the Fir Tree as "God's Tree". In the next 5 centuries, the tree became a symbol of Christianity, and was being hung upside-down from the ceiling as a sign of Christianity.
The first known decorated Christmas Tree was at Riga in Latvia, in 1510. Martin Luther decorated a small Christmas Tree in 1535 with candles for his children, to show them how the stars twinkle through the night.
In the middle of the 16th century, Christmas started already to turn into a business as the German people at the local market sold everything from gifts, food and also more practical items such as knife grinders to sharpen the knife to carve the Christmas Goose. At these fairs, bakers sold gingerbreads and wax ornaments for souvenirs to take home for use to decorate their Christmas Tree.
This has been recorded by a visitor to Strasbourg in 1601, which he stated: "...a tree decorated with wafers and golden sugar-twists (Barley Sugar) and paper flowers of all colors". Earlier trees were more biblically symbolized as the "Paradise Tree in the Garden of Eden" -- the many food items were symbols of Plenty, the flowers originally were only red (for Knowledge) and white (for Innocence).
Tinsel were invented in Germany around 1610. Only silver was used at that time and machines had been invented to pull the silver into the wafer strips for tinsel. Later they attempted to use a mixture of led and tin to eliminate the tarnishing of the silver, especially with candlelight. This attempt failed as the tinsel became to heavy and branches started to break under the weight. Therefore, silver was used for tinsels right up to the mid-20th century.
The First English Trees
The first Christmas Tree came to England with the Georgian Kings who came from Germany. At the same time, German Merchants living in England decorated their homes with Christmas Trees. The British people were not found of the German Monarchy, did not copy the fashions at Court, which is why the Christmas Tree did not establish in Britain at this time. Although, a few British families did have Christmas Trees, probably more from influence of their German neighbours than from the Royal Court.