The Holiday Tree

In the recent weeks, there has been a controversy surrounding the annual Christmas Tree lighting in the Rhode Island State House.  Governor Chafee doesn’t wants to call it a Holiday Tree and others are really upset with the change. Does it really matter what we call it? And, shouldn’t we be sensitive to those who don’t believe in Christ and just call it a holiday tree?

The Christmas Tree has a long-standing history. In fact, it goes all the way back to the 7th century when a monk from England went to preach the Gospel in Thuringia, Germany. This area has become the cradle of the Christmas Decoration industry.

We are told that he us the triangular shape of the fir-tree to describe the Holy Trinity. The people soon began to call the fir-tree God’s Tree. By the 12th century, it was hung upside-dow at Christmas time in central Europe as a symbol of Christianity.

The first trees were decorated in Latvia as early as 1510, and Martin Luther decorated a small Christmas Tree with candles in the 16th century.

In the 16th Century, many German towns set up Christmas Markets to provide gifts, food and other practical items for the Christmas celebration. There are records of Christmas Trees decorated with sugar cookies and paper flowers in 1601. By 16001 the Germans made the first Tinsel out of stretched silver.In the 17th century, tradition was to have several small trees on tables for each member of the family, with gifts for that person stacked under the little tree. In 1846, Queen Victoria and the Royal Family were pictured in a London newspaper standing with their children around a Christmas Tree.

The first Christmas Trees began to appear in the United States with the Pennsylvanian German settlers as early as 1747. With the size of the US,  and such diverse customs of the many immigrants, the custom of the Christmas Tree did not spread rapidly until the 19th century.

By the 1870’s Germany began producing glass ornaments. Yet, most ornaments at the time were still home-made. In 1880, FW Woolworth began the import of glass ornaments and the tradition quickly spread.

There is much more about the Christmas Tree, but for all people of all backgrounds, the Christmas Tree is a part of our very culture and despite a push of the secular humanists of our times, it will remain for years to come.

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About Fr. Jay Finelli

Father Jay Finelli is a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence in the state of Rhode Island. He is a webmaster, podcaster, and blogger. In his free time, Father is an avid Live Steam enthusiast.

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