Trees Please Hamilton

Green Solutions to Air Pollution

Decorating with evergreens

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owlThere are so many traditions around the globe, the origins of which become foggier as time goes by. The Gore Park tree was lit up earlier this month with a big crowd, and we’re seeing trees in front windows of homes and stores. As we inventoried a variety of conifers with Trees Please this year, we wondered, who ever thought to bring this inside during the winter?

Evergreens have been used for ages to bring some greenery inside and remind us that spring will arrive once more. This was even noted with Egyptians in a warmer climate. Romans celebrated Saturnalia with evergreens to look forward to next year’s plentiful crops, and for Northern Europeans they represented everlasting life.

The first Christmas Tree proper, however, is known to have originated in Germany. Trees outdoors were decorated with fruits, and the birds drawn in added additional beauty. Trees were later brought inside, and often hung upside-down from the rafters to save floor space! Martin Luther is often credited with adding lit candles after seeing how beautifully the stars glittered through a tree in the winter’s evening.

Another possible origin could be the merging of two existing traditions. The Paradise Tree – a fir decorated with apples, representing the Garden of Eden, combined with the Christmas Light – a pyramid of glass and a candle to represent the light of God.

The tradition of decorating a tree indoors wasn’t accepted in the Americas until the mid-1800s, although it had been brought over much earlier by Germans immigrants, especially in Pennsylvania. It was long seen as a heathen tradition until an illustration was published of the Royal family around their Christmas Tree (a tradition likely introduced by Queen Victoria’s German husband, Prince Albert). It then quickly became widely practiced and evolved into the traditions we see today.

We also recently learned that the oldest Tree Lighting Ceremony in Canada is in our own Dundas, which began in 1914! So whether you celebrate Christmas or decorate with greenery, enjoy those evergreens outside or in, reminding us that spring is just around the corner!

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Author: treespleasehamilton

A project of the Hamilton Naturalists' Club and Environment Hamilton. Funding by Ontario Trillium Foundation.

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