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     Volume 5 Issue 124 | December 15, 2006 |

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Straight Talk

Quizmas Trees

The last couple of weeks have been rather manic over here. Schools are heading towards the end of the term and as it is nearing Christmas, there has been a sudden flurry of activity. There are the carol concerts to attend, music concerts, school plays etc. In fact with three children I have, on more than one occasion, wanted to clone myself as it is difficult to be in two places at the same time. This usually ends in one of the children agreeing to let me go to the other ones function and thereby missing their one or just not going to either and disappointing both! I still have not figured out a solution to this dilemma of mine. If you have any suggestions, please do let me know.

Luckily the school holidays are just a few days away and I can put aside my feelings of guilt and assist my children in putting up and decorating our Christmas tree. This is always a good distraction to use to divert attention away from my inability to teleport or clone myself. However, it was when I mentioned to them that this would be our first task once the holidays started that my youngest asked me why people have Christmas trees in the first place. I have to say I was a bit stumped by this question as I had no idea whatsoever. In true sheep like mentality, I followed the tradition of having a Christmas tree without actually knowing the history or reasoning behind it. Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire! For a moment I did think of winging it and saying that it just looked nice therefore people put up Christmas trees but had the sense to tell her I would get back to her on that. What if she asked someone who did know. Or worse still, what if someone asked her and she repeated my comment about Christmas trees just looking nice, “My Mummy said…” --- no, that was just too cringe worthy to even contemplate. The accusatory look I would get would be a blow to my ego as a parent (parents are supposed to know the answers to all questions regardless of how obscure they might be)!

My quest was to find out where the tradition of Christmas trees came from and all I can say is thank God for the internet. I know have to wait till I see my daughter this afternoon to dazzle her with my new found knowledge. So I thought in the meantime I could share some of this wisdom with you.

Supposedly, it dates back all the way to the 7th century where a monk from Crediton, Devonshire, journeyed to Germany to spread the Word of God. According to the legend, he used the triangular shape of the Fir Tree to describe the Holy Trinity of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit to the German people. The German people he converted started to venerate the Fir Tree as "God's Tree". In the next five hundred years the fir tree became a symbol of Christianity, and by about the 12th century, was being hung upside-down from the ceiling as a sign of Christianity. And in the next few hundred years, the trees were used the right way up and the first known decorated Christmas tree was at Riga in Latvia in 1510. And then by Martin Luther who was a German monk, a church reformer and the leader of the great religious revolt. In 1535 he decorated a Christmas tree with candles to show his children how the stars twinkle at night.

England saw the advent of its first Christmas tree with the Georgian Kings who came from Germany. During this time, German Merchants living in England also decorated their homes with Christmas Trees. The German Monarchy was not particularly popular with their British subjects and therefore the trend did not catch on immediately in the Royal Court, which is why the Christmas tree did not establish itself in Britain at this time. Although, a few British families did have Christmas trees, probably more from influence of their German neighbours than from the Royal Court. It was in 1846, when Queen Victoria and her consort, Prince Albert (from Germany), were depicted in the Illustrated London News standing with their children around a Christmas Tree that the idea caught on. Unlike the previous Royal family, Queen Victoria was very popular with her subjects, and what was done at Court immediately became fashionable in Britain.

As far as the decorations are concerned, In Germany in the 17th century, there were fairs where bakers made shaped gingerbreads and wax ornaments for people to buy as souvenirs from the fair, and take home to hang on their Christmas trees. Also tinsel at this time was made from real silver. They were wafer thin strips of silver and due to the fact it was durable, was used right up to the middle of the twentieth century. However it was relatively expensive to buy purely because it was made from silver but nowadays tinsel is produced artificially and is readily available in shops at very reasonable prices.

They say that knowledge is power but what they did not tell you is that it definitely makes one feel a few inches taller and ready to face the numerous questions of a seven year old! Now when I am helping her put up a bit of tinsel or some other bit of decoration, I will be armed with all the facts I need.

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