Why Did Our Forefathers Hate Christmas Trees?
With Christmas just around the corner and merriment all around, all of us are rushing to buy last-minute Christmas gifts for our loved ones, or excitedly waiting to meet our families and cozy up with them around a cup of eggnog or hot chocolate. Most of us are busy negotiating a Christmas tree to liven up our living room, and those of us who have already bought them are busy picking out the perfect decorations from them, ranging from merry elves to twinkling stars that light up the tree with the spirit of Christmas.
Whatever you are planning to do this Christmas, it is most probable that a Christmas tree figures into the equation one way or another, because it has become an indispensable part of the Christmas tradition, especially in America. Today, I will share with you the surprising history of Christmas trees which have become an integral part of our Christmas.
Where did the tradition of Christmas trees come from?
You might think that Christmas trees are a tradition dating back to the time of Jesus himself, but surprisingly, it does not. Christmas trees were first introduced in the 16th Century in Germany, where zealous Christians got the ingenious idea to decorate their homes with trees. If the wood was not easily available, they made pyramids with whatever little wood they could find and lighted it up with candles and baubles.
Although not proven, it is a popular belief that adding lighting to trees was the idea of a protestant reformer by the name of Martin Luther. During a sermon, he was awestruck with the beauty of twinkling stars hiding betwixt the boughs of the trees, and to recreate the picturesque beauty for his family, he brightened up his house with a Christmas tree and attached its branches with lighted candles, and that is how this modern tradition was born.
The persecution of Christmas trees in America
You might find it surprising that in the early days, the Americans hated Christmas trees with a passion. They were first brought into America in the 1830s by the German settlers who lived in Pennsylvania, who used them as sort of a communal symbol of Christmas. The Americans thought this tradition to be paganistic and unholy in nature. It is not surprising because the first New England Puritans treated Christmas as a very sacred and holy occasion, and decorations of any sort were banned.
The second governor of New England, William Bradford, stated in his memoirs that he was highly against any sort of “pagan mockery” of Christmas, and people who defied him were made an example to be feared. Oliver Cromwell, an English statesman, called Christmas carols a “heathen tradition”, and any joy and merriment was, in his eyes, a taint on “that sacred event.” The court of Massachusetts made it a penal offense in 1659 to hang any Christmas decorations, a law that was strongly adhered to until the 19th century when the German and Irish pilgrims began to undermine it.
The acceptance of Christmas trees as a tradition
It took a long time for the Christmas trees of the Germans to be accepted into the hearts of the English and American people, but it happened. In 1846, Queen Victoria, who was very famous with the people as compared to other royals in that time period, was sketched with a Christmas tree with her family. And of course, when the Queen made a fashion statement, the masses accepted it without questioning it twice.
The tradition found a home in England, and the ever fashion cautious Americans adopted it too, and thus the tradition began to solidify itself in America. As the restrictions began to lower due to public pressure and demand, the German ornaments also started to creep into American households, specially designed for the fact that unlike Europeans, Americans liked to used trees so big they went from the floor to the ceiling. With the advent of electricity and the easy availability of it, it became a must-have to decorate a Christmas tree with bright lights, and thus what was once a fashion trend became an American tradition.
A true Christmas miracle
The final acceptance of Christmas trees is honest to God miracle, one of those stories that we hear cozying in our blankets from the elders of our family. They started out as a foreign, paganistic, and exotic tradition, and were disliked by Americans. But slowly and steadily, they creeped into the hearts of the people and made them their homes.
It is the spirit of Christianity to accept everything beautiful into its folds, and realize to give credit where credit is due, the reason why Christmas trees, the very pictures of merriment and encapsulation of the emotion that surrounds Christmas finally became the beautiful and heartwarming tradition that they are today.