Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging"
~ O Tannenbaum, Traditional
The custom of decorating a small tree is of German origin, and the first Christmas trees were decorated with edible things, such as gingerbread and gold covered apples. Glass makers made special small ornaments similar to decorations used today. The first Christmas Trees came to Britain sometime in the 1830s, but became very popular in 1841, when Prince Albert had a special tree set up in Windsor Castle. An 1848 engraving of "The Queen's Christmas tree at Windsor Castle" was published in the Illustrated London News and sparked a craze for Christmas Trees. Two years later the drawing was epublished in Godey's Lady's Book in Philadelphia (but with the removal of the Queen's crown and Prince Albert's moustache to make it look 'American')!
The Christmas Tree Jig
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
From The History of Christmas Trees:
Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition in the 16th century. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce. It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles.
Like many other festive Christmas customs, the tree tradition was adopted late in America. To the New England Puritans, Christmas was sacred and the pilgrims’s second governor, William Bradford, considered the observance both pagan and frivolous. In 1659, the General Court of Massachusetts enacted a law making any observance of December 25 (other than a church service) a penal offense; people were fined for hanging decorations. That stern solemnity continued until the 19th century, when the influx of German and Irish immigrants undermined the Puritan legacy.
In Britain, Oliver Cromwell preached against “the heathen traditions” of Christmas carols, decorated trees, and any joyful expression that desecrated “that sacred event.”
By 1846, however, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, were sketched in the Illustrated London News standing with their children around a Christmas tree. What was done at court immediately became fashionable, not only in Britain, but with fashion-conscious East Coast American Society.
By the early 20th century, Americans decorating their trees mainly with homemade ornaments, while the German-American immigrants continued to use apples, nuts, and marzipan cookies. Popcorn became a favorite decoration, interlaced with berries and nuts. And finally, electricity made it possible for decorated and lighted trees to appear in town squares across the country.
For more on the decoration of Christmas Trees in different countries, click artist Tasha Tudor's illustration of her children and her favorite corgis dancing around the Christmas tree in her "Winter" selection, 1996.
And for an entire collection of Christmas related dances, see the special Christmas Page on this site.