The English may have given us the Kissing Bough but it was the Northern Europeans who began the tradition of the decorated Christmas tree. Nearly all species of evergreens are used for Christmas trees. Availability, cost, and sentiment are among the attributes that most people have in mind when they purchase a Christmas tree. Other characteristics that make a tree desirable are its retention of needles or foliage after it is cut; its pyramidal, compact shape; foliage color; fragrance; and limb strength sufficient to support ornaments.
At first, Christmas trees were decorated with small tufts of cotton and fabric, strings of popcorn and cranberries, and handmade ornaments. In Germany, a story is told of Martin Luther strolling through the countryside alone on Christmas Eve under a brilliant starlit sky. He was awestruck by the beauty of the heavens and the wintery landscape: the blue light on the low hills outside Weimar, and on the evergreen trees, the snowflakes sparkling in the moonlight. Returning home, he told his family of his experience, and attempted to reproduce the splendor of the outdoors. To a small evergreen he attached some lighted candles so as to portray the reflection of the starry night. It is said that Martin Luther was responsible for introducing the use of Christmas trees in the home.
The custom of a candle-lit Christmas tree was not accepted until 200 years after Luther’s death. In the 1700s lights were accepted as a part of the decorations and the Christmas tree was well on its way to becoming the accepted custom in Germany. During the American Revolution, the tradition of the Christmas tree bridged the Atlantic.
Finland is said to have accepted the custom in 1800, Denmark in 1810, Sweden a decade later, and Norway in 1830. From the Scandinavian countries, the custom spread to France and England in 1840.
For centuries, the fir has been the most popular Christmas tree. The fact that the twigs of the balsam fir resemble crosses more than other evergreens’ may have something to do with it. Extracts from the fir, especially the balsam fir, were used for medical purposes; probably for that reason it was widely sought after and used. Certainly the fragrance of the balsam is one of its outstanding features.
That fragrance is the first thing you notice when you step into our greenhouse to shop for a Christmas tree. After you select your tree, it is cut, netted and tied to your vehicle at no extra charge.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all of us here at Pahl’s!