2 December 2002
The Christmas Tree
Most of us will have a Christmas Tree as the centre of our festive decorations. Whether our choice is for live or artificial the history of this tradition remains the same.
According to legend St. Boniface explained the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost to his German congregation in the 7th Century using the triangular shape of the native fir trees. By the 12th Century, Fir trees were being used as Christmas decorations, however, they were displayed upside down from the ceiling.
By the 16th Century the Christmas tree was being displayed upright, and Martin Luther is said to have placed lights on a tree to show his children how the stars twinkled in the heavens.
German immigrants took the Christmas Tree traditions with them to the USA and here in the UK the tradition was made popular by Prince Albert and Queen Victoria.
If, like me, you prefer to see, and smell, a live tree in your home for the 12 days of Christmas you must prepare you tree to give it the best possible chance of staying green until 12th night.
First of all be careful how you choose your tree, go to a reputable garden centre, where they will guarantee that the tree has not been taken from the "wild" and has been cultivated as a crop.
Choose the shape and style of tree that is right for you and the situation you are going to place it. Whichever variety of tree you do decide upon try to store it in a cool, moist place, and if you can, stand it in a bucket of water. The garage is an ideal spot away from the wind and sun, and a tree will stand for a couple of weeks like this.
When you are ready to bring the tree in, cut off approximately 1 - 2 inches from the end of the trunk, this will help the tree to absorb water during its stay inside. Try to ensure that this cut end stays in water and like your cut flowers keep the water fresh and topped up, trees are very thirsty and can drink between 2 pints to a gallon of water over a 24 hour period!
On Twelfth Night, when the decorations are traditionally taken down watch out for advertisements in your local newspaper for details of shredding services - that way your Christmas tree will provide a second service to you by becoming mulch to protect your garden plants during the coldest part of winter.
If you follow the instructions above you should keep your tree healthy and green throughout the Christmas period, but there are products that you can buy to help with needle retention, but I understand that "hair spray" carefully applied away from any naked flame, can work as well!
How many young men and women (and not so young too) would enjoy their stolen kisses under the mistletoe if they realised it literally means "poo on a stick" - Early botanists believed that the plant sprung out of bird droppings that landed on the branches of apple trees! How romantic is that!
This parasitic plant has long been held in awe, by the early Pagans, Druids and Romans all believed that Mistletoe was sacred plant, but with the spread of Christianity mistletoe took on the symbol of peace and goodwill, and the green plant was very visible during the Winter months and it therefore took on a greater significance around the Christian festival of Christmas.