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The Christmas Tree

The origins of the Christmas tree seem to be shrouded somewhat in mystery. It seems that there were old pagan customs in Europe of decorating houses with evergreen plants in mid-winter. There are chronicled mentions from the 15th and 16th centuries of public Christmas trees in Baltic towns, for example in Riga, today in Latvia. There is evidence for Christmas trees in the 16th century from several German-speaking areas. Over time the custom became widespread in the Baltic and central Europe. There is somewhat more certainty how Christmas trees made it into English culture and became a world-wide phenomenon. The person mainly responsible is Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria. He brought the custom from Germany and the royal family got into the Christmas spirit with enthusiasm. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert together with their children brought the Christmas tree inside themselves, added candles and other decorations and brought festive cheer to the palace. An engraving of the royal family decorating a Christmas tree probably got the British excited about the idea. Prince Albert even sent decorated trees to schools and army barracks nearby. He clearly was a champion of the custom.

Since then Christmas trees have spread around the world, sometimes even replacing other customs. While evergreen decorations have traditionally been and are still being used for many festive occasions, it was seen as particularly apt for Christmas: the green symbolised life in the barren winter. The symbolism of light shining in the darkness is present in many cultures, but clearly also a Biblical description.
Christ is the light of the world and Christians reflect that light in a dark world. Light and life are therefore two essential aspects that Christmas trees symbolise. Other symbols have made it onto Christmas trees. If Christmas trees can point us to Jesus they have their place—also in Church.
And they are, after all, beautiful.