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Christmas Tree Traditions Throughout The Ages

With the holidays just around the corner, we’re taking a little vacation from the River Valley Park System Guide — but not in the way you might think! We aren’t putting anything on hold for the season. In fact, this particular month is getting a special spotlight because December is one of the rare times our hobbies overlap. While our crew is braving the sub-zero temps of the Greater Edmonton Area in order to remove unwanted trees, many people across the city (and indeed the world!) are felling their own. Whether it’s a fir, spruce, or pine that you prefer, the Christmas tree is a quintessential symbol of the season, and its decorated branches provide a centrepiece for the many families celebrating this holiday.

Now firmly embedded in the way Christians celebrate the season, evergreens have had a special meaning well before the advent of Christianity. Coniferous trees that stay green throughout winter have always played an important role during the winter for many different cultures.

– Celtic pagans used their branches as a way to celebrate the shortest day of the year, while simultaneously anticipating the oncoming spring when the dormant Earth would once again bloom into verdant greens.

– Scandinavian Vikings attributed evergreens with Balder, their sun god. They celebrated Yule on the winter solstice and spent the holiday decorating these trees to honour the spirits as well as to hasten the upcoming spring

– The early Romans celebrated the solstice by decorating their temples with the boughs of evergreen, letting their green branches symbolize the approach of longer days and warmer weather, when their fields would blossom

– The ancient Egyptians lived too far south to have access to the evergreens we use today, but they decorated their homes with palm leaves during the solstice, which was thought of the day that Ra, the sun god, emerged from his hibernation.

It wasn’t until sometime in 16th century Germany when the evergreen became intertwined with the Christian faith. It took a little longer before it caught on with the rest of the Western world, and some historians attribute its popularity with Queen Victoria, who was sketched before a Christmas tree with her German husband, Prince Albert, in 1846. By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the evergreen evolved into the Christmas tree we know and love, decorated with lights and homemade ornaments.

Each country will differ slightly with the way they decorate their trees. In the Philippines, handmade trees are more popular than fresh firs. In Mexico, many families incorporate a small, artificial tree into their Nativity scene. Meanwhile, here in Canada, the Christmas tree is similar to the ones Germany popularized centuries ago.

Whether you’re celebrating the season with a Christmas tree or not, we here at Chipps want to extend warm wishes to you and your family this holiday. As you take the time to make merry with your loved ones, we want to remind you we’re available this month for any pressing tree care concerns. Of course, if your calendar is full, we can always arrange an appointment at a more convenient time in the New Year. Just give us a call when you need some help!