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The History Of Christmas Trees And Holiday Flowers


Whether you roll your tree out of storage as soon as Halloween is over or you wait for the kids’ Christmas break to begin before picking a live tree, there’s no denying that an evergreen tree is a central focus for any Christmas celebration. What’s more magical than waking up early — the only morning of the year that mornings aren’t terrible! — and crowding around the lit tree with your loved ones? No matter how long you have your tree up, how you decorate it, or what your Christmas traditions are, we’re betting at least one tradition involves that timeless staple: the evergreen tree. But where did that tradition even start?

The Early Years

The tradition of the Christmas tree predates Christianity. Okay, yes, we know that doesn’t make sense. How can a holiday tradition start before the holiday it’s a part of, or the events that started the holiday? In this case, it’s all about tradition sharing amongst holidays. Before Christianity came around, cultural groups in Europe would celebrate the winter solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year, falling on December 21st (and extending overnight into the 22nd). One key part of winter solstice celebrations was to deck the halls with the greenery that was available. In many parts of Europe, especially the more northern regions, this meant evergreen trees like pine, spruce, and fir were the most extensively available greenery.

The northern European peoples weren’t the only ones to celebrate the winter solstice either. The Egyptians would celebrate the god Ra at the winter solstice. As a symbol of Ra’s rise starting with the winter solstice, Egyptians would decorate their homes with green palm rushes.

Similarly, the ancient Romans celebrated the feast of Saturnalia at the winter solstice. For them, the winter solstice was a signal of a turning point, a signal that winter would be growing shorter and things would start growing again. In celebration of the fruitful and green life that would soon be growing, the Romans would decorate their homes with evergreen branches.

Spreading Traditions of Greenery

As these early groups traveled and cultures met, the ideas grew stronger, meaning that the use of evergreens managed to endure the fall of civilizations and the ongoing evolution of holidays and celebrations. By the 1500s, Christianity was well-established across Europe and the older traditions of Egypt, Rome, and northern European pagans slowly morphed into Christian celebrations. Celebrating Christmas so soon after the winter solstice meant that many families would continue to decorate their homes with evergreens and other winter greenery even as they converted to Christianity.

The Germans who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1800s brought this holiday tradition with them, but most Americans at the time saw it as a pagan tradition rather than a Christian one. It wasn’t until newspapers printed an image of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and their children around a Christmas tree that the tradition started gaining popularity outside of Germany. Queen Victoria was well-beloved by her people, and the idea of decorating an evergreen with ornaments and candles spread quickly across Europe and to America from there.

Christmas Traditions Today

Eventually, the tradition spread so well that we’ve arrived to the point we’re at today. Candles on the tree became the safe and more durable twinkle lights and garlands of berries and nuts evolved into ornaments of all kinds. Evergreen trees are even grown in all 50 states. As the popularity of evergreen trees spread, so did the idea of using evergreen branches to create centerpieces, garlands, and even Christmas flower arrangements. Today, Christmas trees and centerpieces using fresh flowers and evergreen accents are a beautiful and seasonal way to bring some fresh greenery into your home during the dreary winter months.

Celebrate the Christmas season in style. Explore Christmas arrangements with fresh flowers, evergreen boughs, and more from Chappell’s Florist. Check out our options online or visit us in Colchester.

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