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The Origin of Christmas Trees

Updated: Nov 18, 2022

✦ Christmas is simply not Christmas without a tree. How did this idea come about?

Whether you are celebrating a sunny Christmas in Australia or a snowy Christmas in Scandinavia, we definitely all have one thing in common - the Christmas tree.

Where did the Christmas tree come from as featured in Brilliant-Online
Homeward bound after picking the perfect tree (Photo: Adam Tarwacki, Unsplash)

History of the Christmas tree

The ancient Egyptians, Chinese and Hebrews believed that evergreens were symbols of eternal life. They started bringing trees and branches into their households as a way to remind themselves that the seasons are cyclical. The earth goes to sleep in winter, and life returns again in spring. It's a symbol of hope and eternal life. And even in our modern day, we know how good it feels to have a bit of green in our houses to brighten and freshen up our living spaces.

Christmas by Lucy Humphries Photography as featured in Brilliant-Online
Photo: Lucy Humphries Photography

In the 16th century in Germany, trees started to become common and popular in people's homes and this was the start of what we know today as the Christmas tree. Because it is such a popular symbol and item to have that it may come as quite a shock to know that at one point in the 17th century, there was quite a hue and cry from the Puritan Americans against the Christmas tree. It was seen as a pagan symbol and they certainly wanted none of that in their lives. They were even incensed enough to fine people who insisted on celebrating this pagan holiday. What helped to put out the fire was the numerous German and Irish settlers who wanted to continue with the Christmas tradition they have known all their lives. Luckily for us, the Christmas tree stayed strong and green through the rest of history, and we are still able to have this in our homes without fear of censure.

The 19th century saw the Christmas tree's status firmly consolidated when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were seen in a family portrait with a Christmas tree. There was no Instagram or Tik Tok then, but clearly the Royal Family were powerful influencers in those days, and a single family portrait like that was enough to help market the Christmas tree and catapult it to fame. Since then, everyone wanted a Christmas tree in December. Even the humble Christmas tree needed its fair share of marketing for it to reach its present-day status.

Let's have a real Christmas tree at home as featured in Brilliant-Online
Let's have a real Christmas tree at home | Photo: Annie Spratt, Unsplash

Tips to make your Christmas tree last in Australia's climate

Many families choose to have artificial trees to avoid the problems of shedding needles, and having to meticulously care for the tree, or wondering how to discard the tree when its life cycle is over. However, it is undeniable that there is still a certain magic to having natural trees, and the challenge for us living in Australia is the hot summer weather. Here are some simple tips to help your beautiful Christmas trees last and stay happy for your Christmas celebrations.

  • Christmas trees get thirsty easily and with the summer heat you would have to make sure they are kept well hydrated. Some people spray the leaves with an anti-transpirant to reduce water loss so the tree stays fresh longer. While Christmas trees like water, make sure the drainage is good also.

  • Make sure your potted Christmas tree has enough space for its roots. If not, you may have to repot the plant so it can continue to last through the summer.

  • Be careful where you place your Christmas tree. Choose a spot where it can get some warm rays in the morning but some protection from the sun in the sweltering afternoon. One tip is to remember to turn the plant regularly so it gets an even amount of sunlight.

  • If your Christmas tree stays indoors during the festive season, you can try moving it outdoors once the celebrations are over. Help your tree to adjust to a new environment by putting it in a shady spot before gradually moving it to a sunnier place.

A REAL Christmas tree in Veronica Lind´s family in Luxembourg | Brilliant Christmas | Brilliant Online
Fresh and ready to be decorated! A REAL Christmas tree in Veronica Lind´s family in Luxembourg.

A respectful, eco-friendly end

So we now come to the part that's inevitable. Our natural Christmas trees do come to an end. What do we do with our Christmas trees when they die? There's more we can do than just stripping it of the decorations and then chucking it in the dump. Surely it deserves a dignified and respectful end?

A convenient solution is to ask your local council if they have any service that allows you to drop off your trees. What some local councils do is to recycle these trees to make mulch for public gardens and green areas.

Then there are many other creative ways to recycle or repurpose your used Christmas trees. With sustainability being a must-have value nowadays, it makes sense to start thinking how we can incorporate sustainability into our holiday season.

1) Compost

You can trim bits of branches off your tree, put them in a pile about 15cm high to create a base for a compost pile. This provides drainage for the compost. You can then add layers of material to be composted after that. Keep the compost pile moist, and aerate it by turning it every few weeks. This keeps the microorganisms happy and ready to get to work.

2) Firewood

If you have a fireplace, you can cut up the tree and use it for firewood next winter. The wood will need a few months to be dry enough to burn anyway, so by the time the cold months come you'll be ready.

3) Mulch

Mulch is basically any organic material put over the top of the soil as a covering. It helps to regulate the temperature of the soil so it doesn't go to the extremes in summer or winter. Cut up the thinner branches from your tree into little pieces. Add them to your garden beds. Check out a mulch recipe here by Accomplished Tree Management.

Christmas is a wonderfully magical time of the year, and we are so fortunate to have these beautiful gifts from Nature to make our homes special (and smell really nice!).

Above article is inspired by Accomplished Tree Management


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