The Relationship between the Winter Solstice and the Christmas Tree
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The Winter Solstice has come upon us once again. Early tomorrow morning, December 22, will officially mark the first day of winter. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere it is also the shortest day of the year where the sun is shining furthest to the south.
During ancient times Winter Solstice was seen as a pagan festival. Druid priests in Great Britain would use evergreens, holly and the mistletoe to symbolize eternal life. The evergreens were then draped around the doors to ward off evil spirits and to remind them that the sun god will return making plants strong again being gone for so long.
There were similar traditions throughout the world where people would use evergreens and lights during this time of year to decorate their houses. These were used to remind them of agriculture, optimism for the spring or life’s triumph over death.
Over time the use of evergreen evolved eventually being used as a tree in the home in Latvia around 1510. The Germans though are often associated with the decorating of it. 16th century Martin Luther was said to have been taking a walk through a pine forest when he looked up and saw the sky full of stars. He went home and wanted to recreate the scene for his children to remind them of the heavens from where their Savior descended from. He proceeded to use candles and place them in the tree to represent the stars.
Decorations were often edible such as nuts, gingerbread, apples and the like. Eventually they too changed with time. In 1800 the German Queen Charlotte, wife of George III put up the first known English Christmas tree which helped popularize it within the upper class.