Think of Christmas and the first thing that comes to mind are evergreen Christmas trees. For who can think of celebrating Christmas without the traditionally decorated tree?
The history of the Christmas tree tradition is often traced to the Christianization of the prehistoric pagan belief that the evergreen tree signifies a commemoration of the rejuvenation of life. Medieval myths however spoke about the marvelous "flowering" of trees during Christmas. Then again, the Germanic tribes considered Patron trees as sacred. The tree is also often associated with the concept trinity signified by its triangular shape.
Among more modern traditions, Ingeborg Weber-Keller (Marburg professor of European ethnology) found the earliest reference of a decorated fir tree for the occasion of Xmas in a Bremen guild chronicle of 16th century Germany.
If you follow the tradition of Christmas trees, then you cannot bring in and decorate the trees until Christmas Eve (24 December) and cannot remove them either before the day after twelfth night (i.e., January 6th). If you do this, you bring bad luck.
However, consumerism has put this custom in the backseat. In the US, it is a popular norm to put up the decorated tree right after Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday in November) and to remove it after the New Year.
Again, some others prefer not to have the tree at home until the second week of December and have it around until 6 January. German Catholics again follow a custom wherein they remove the Christmas trees as late as 2 February.
Though only natural trees were used in olden times now artificial trees are also quite popular. However, since some fake trees are made out of PVC, a toxic material that is often stabilized with lead, it is an issue of environmental concern. Polyethylene trees are the less toxic kinds, though more costly than the PVC type.
Then again, artificial trees cannot be recycled and results in pollution. Real trees on the other hand can be recycled as a crop.
Let us take a close look at some types of Christmas trees:
- Fir (Abies is the most popular kind, with the advantage of not shedding dry needles, bright foliage color and aroma. Silver Fir Abies alba (the original species), Nordmann Fir Abies nordmanniana, Noble Fir Abies procera, Grand Fir Abies grandis to name a few others.
- Conifers too are sometimes used such as Giant Sequoia, Leyland Cypress and Eastern Juniper.
- Then there is Blue spruce but has very sharp needles
- Virginia Pine is still grown on some tree farms in the southeastern United States, but its wintertime color is too dull for decorations.
- The long-needled Eastern White Pine is sometimes used.
- Norfolk Island pine is popular in the Oceania region
- In Australia, few species of the genera Casuarina and Allocasuarina are used as Christmas trees.
Artificial trees embellished with lights and crafts, are popular for convenience and cost sake. The first modern artificial Christmas trees were made by companies, which made brushes. Some of the most popular among these Christmas trees are the indoor prelit trees, tabletop feather trees, metallic designer trees, outdoor-branched trees made of heavy white-enameled steel wires etc.