Did you know that the tradition of decorating Christmas trees began in northern Europe, and particularly Germany, during the early 16th century? At that time, devout Christians started bringing embellished trees into their homes at Christmastime. Some built pyramid-type structures from wood, and used evergreen boughs and candles to decorate them if wood was hard to find. The story goes that 16th century Protestant reformer Martin Luther was the first to add lights to a Christmas tree. Purportedly walking home one evening, composing a sermon, he looked up and caught a glimpse of stars twinkling behind some pine tree boughs. Struck by the beauty of this sight and wishing to re-create it for his family, he erected a pine tree in the main room of his residence and attached lit candles to its boughs with wire.
Hopefully this amazing story will make you want to create a holiday tree that will inspire your family with its splendor. Since the early days, Christmas tree decorating ideas have, without doubt, skyrocketed in elaborateness and options. With all the choices for tree-trimming these days, the ways of going about it are as varied as the people who put up a tree.
1. Real or Artificial?
Before tree-trimming can even begin, of course, the basic choice between using a real or fake tree must be confronted. Nowadays, sustainability is a factor influencing this decision for many families. According to an article published by the National Christmas Tree Association, natural tree sales in the U.S. have remained relatively flat over the past 15 years, with about 27 – 33 million trees sold annually. During that same period, however, artificial tree sales have more than doubled, going from approximately 9 million trees in 2004 to 21 million in 2017.
In spite of the argument that fake trees, composed of PVC and steel, are less sustainable, USA Today reported the findings of an actual sustainability consulting company, which considered such things as greenhouse gas emissions, and water and energy use of real versus artificial trees. On a one-to-one basis, the consultants stated, live trees are more environmentally preferable; however, considering that most artificial trees are used for several years, the fake ones are more sustainable.
Less quantifiable are the intangible factors relating to Christmas trees, such as love for the smell of fresh pine throughout your living room, the value of personal family traditions around Christmas and the holidays, or the romance of trekking out to a rural field or Christmas tree lot to pick the “perfect” pine.
2. Thematic or Eclectic?
Yet another Christmas tree conundrum is the desire to make your tree a reflection of elegance and aesthetic appeal, versus a still-lovely-yet-less-contrived tree decorated with anything and everything that suits your fancy. Again, this is a matter of individual taste and opinion. Some would argue that every Christmas tree, even Charlie Brown’s, is a thing of beauty.
Trees with planned themes can be more challenging and costly to construct, depending on the idea in mind. The simplest are based on color schemes of up to no more than three or four colors, using ornaments such as monochromatic glass balls of varying sizes, metallic bells (to the right), shiny ribbons, garlands and tree picks, which come in all sorts of styles and colors.
More complex themes might include nostalgic, sports, or toys. It can be challenging — yet entertaining and satisfying — to carefully pick out and choose Christmas ornaments that fit a particular idea. For people who love to collect, a theme-based tree can be an impressive reflection of their passion for and skill at this hobby.
Most families who have young children or who prefer a simpler approach will opt for a non-theme tree-trimming style. Most parents hang their children’s handmade ornaments with love and pride, positively encouraging their children to create and participate in holiday festivities. Unlimited types of delightful ornaments, even more meaningful when personalized, can have meaning and significance that brings more joy than “designer-type” decorations. Regardless whether Christmas tree decorations are theme-based or “homestyle,” however, they bring joy to the trimmer and to those who enjoy viewing it during the holiday season.
3. Angel or Star?
Angels have traditionally been placed on the top of a Christmas tree to represent their role at Jesus’ birth. In the nativity story, a “host of angels” appeared in the sky above Bethlehem to announce the birth of Christ. Angels were also involved when Gabriel, the archangel of revelation, revealed to Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus; and angels showed up in Joseph’s dreams to inform him that he would be Jesus’ earthly father.
Stars used to top a Christmas tree symbolize the famed Star of Bethlehem (also called the Christmas Star), which led the wise men, or magi, to the exact spot where Jesus was born. Similarly, star ornaments (to the left) anywhere on your tree bring this special meaning to mind, inspiring us to ponder the religious meaning of the holiday.The act of decorating a Christmas can be a tradition in and of itself, with many people having tree-trimming parties to bring holiday festivity to this happy event. The fun of picking out and hanging ornaments can be an important opportunity for fellowship and bonding among family or friends. All the lovely choices we have available today help make our Christmas tree a reminder of the spirit of light and love surrounding the holiday season.