O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum, that’s a Christmas song most of us know about, even those who are not too good at singing Carols. If you get a translation of the phrase Tannenbaum it is most likely Christmas tree. More literally it is Fir tree. We who celebrate the arrival of the Germans among others at the Indianola Port might even accept that basically the Germans invented the Christmas tree. Those who live in Germany certainly think they started that tradition.

When one studies the history of such trees it is generally conceded that Germany, or what is now Germany (it was a group of several Duchies for a long time) was very likely where it was invented. And the song sprang up in the early 1800’s there. However, there are many other stories or beliefs about what is the exact actual beginning of this late winter tree thing. Many go back way before the Christmas event was even started. The early Egyptians, Chinese and Hebrews have evidence of using evergreen trees and foliage in the late December and Early New Year to recognize that life was everlasting. They decorated their houses and barns (maybe even stables) to help bring that message in those dark cold days and nights.

Then there is the Story that St Boniface from England while teaching Christianity in Germany saw the fir tree and used its triangular shape in teaching those folks about the three points of the Holy trinity. There are tales to that effect. Early decorations included hanging apples on the branches and calling it a Paradise tree.

The decorated Christmas tree became popular in England during the reign of Queen Victoria. Her German husband Prince Albert brought the German tradition to the English palace and when the British saw pictures of the decorated tree and his and the queens children celebrating around it the idea became quite popular.

My favorite story of the decoration involves Martin Luther. The story goes that one winter night as he was walking home he spied the starlit sky through the branches of a fir tree and he was struck by the beauty of the sight of glowing stars around the branches.. When he arrived home he assembled candles on the branches of the fir tree to show his children how the stars shined through the trees. Thus a tradition was born.

There is no hard evidence that any story above is wholly true. But all are good stories and do describe a little of the magic of the season. That after all is what is important isn’t it. We all need a little magic as our year dwindles down and we are about to embark on a new years journey.

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