This article “Christmas Tree Traditions Around the World” was updated on 11/19/22
Christmas is a remarkable event that Christians celebrate to honor the birth of Christ, the Messiah. In this lush season of Yuletide, there is so much jollification and a crisp, sweet air of happiness. Mothers cook the best delicacies, children have the time of their lives, and families decorate the household. Festivity is all over the misty air.
However, in the North, South, East, and West, one thing that binds us all is a Christmas tree. Decorating a Christmas tree may be the best part of the festive season. But, has it ever occurred to you that the mode of decorating a Christmas tree varies between countries? Let’s tour the world and explore various Christmas tree traditions!
It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
Before Halloween’s debut, most stores start creating Christmas decorations to inspire their shoppers for “the most wonderful time of the year.” At the center of these Christmas decorations is the Christmas Tree. It is the focal point of any home and is welcome in many ways, from Rustic to Neutral to Classic Red and Green.
Have you ever wondered how our families around the world celebrate Christmas trees? It may surprise you that not everyone decorates their trees with lights and ornaments. Instead, each country has its unique spin on Christmas tree traditions that may inspire some of your own.
Germany – Where It All Started
Did you know that Germany was responsible for starting the tradition of decorating trees with lights in the 16th century? The story says that Protestant Reformer, Martin Luther, was walking home one night after working on a sermon and was so in awe of the stars amidst the evergreens that he had to recreate it.
He returned and added lit candles on his tree; the rest is history. From that day forward, Christians began bringing trees into their homes and decorating them with lights to celebrate Christmas.
People of Germany also found other ways to create a lit Christmas tree. If they could not bring a tree into their home, they created Christmas pyramids out of wood and decorated them with evergreen branches and candles. Hence, the most popular Christmas tree tradition was born.
Ukraine Highlights Spiders and Sparkly Spiderwebs
Eastern Europe has a folktale called “The Legend of the Christmas Spider.” It tells of a widow and her small children who watch as a pinecone takes root in their home and grows into a tree.
On the Eve of Christmas, the family goes to bed with a bare tree because they have no money to decorate it. When they awake on Christmas morning, spiders have covered the tree in cobwebs of gold and silver.
Ukrainians still don their trees with spiderwebs and spiders as a symbol of good luck. The spiderwebs are usually sparkly as a nod to the tinsel used to decorate trees today. So, if you visit a Ukrainian home at Christmas, don’t be shocked to see spiders all around!
France Likes their Fruits
For centuries, France has used real fruit to decorate their Christmas trees. The French created a Christmas tree tradition with the red apple, which symbolizes the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden.
After a year of bad harvest, the French had to switch their real fruit decorations to glass ornaments, but the tradition is still in practice today. The French also decorate their tree with wafer cookies to symbolize redemption through the act of communion, where the wafer represents the body of Christ.
Interestingly, they still merge all these with lights on the tree. To the French, the lights symbolize how Jesus Christ illuminates the world. Their Christmas tree radiates beauty hence the names un sapin de noël and, un arbre de noël.
Australia Goes for a Beachy Look
While many of us in the United States are neck deep in snow for the holiday season, Australia celebrates Christmas in summer vacation. While they have many traditions that are similar to ours, such as singing Christmas carols, there is one tradition they have that we don’t: decorating their tree with seashells.
Australians gather shells of all shapes and sizes from their beaches to hang on the boughs of their Christmas trees. This seashell Christmas tree tradition is beautiful and unique. Australians love the outdoors, especially during the holidays.
So, rather than decorating their homes with wintery baubles, here’s what they do. They use ferns and evergreens to adorn their homes, in addition to colorful flowers like the beautiful Christmas bellflower plant.
Denmark Decorates with Homemade Paper Hearts
Denmark holds a tradition that supposedly was started by Hans Christian Anderson himself. Also, Denmark Christmas trees carry adornments of lovely homemade paper hearts called “julehjerte” made by plaiting and intertwining red and white paper.
The Danish celebrate by filling these hearts with nuts or sweets before hanging them on the Christmas tree. If you visit the Hans Christian Anderson museum in Odense, you can see one of these original hearts on display. And I must add this is truly awe-inspiring.
The Danish also have a wonderful tradition of joining hands around the Christmas tree and singing carols before they are allowed to open gifts.
Iceland Yule Lads Bring 13 Nights of Gifts
In Iceland, Christmas trees hold decorative figures of the Yule Lads, representing the 13 “Santas” of Christmas. Icelandic folklore tells the story of 13 trolls who visit children on the 13 nights leading up to Christmas day.
Children leave a shoe by their bedroom window each night, and when they awaken in the morning, they can find a sweet treat or a small gift waiting for them. But, unfortunately, if the child has been bad, legend states they will find a rotting potato in their shoe! This funny yet interesting tale is where the Icelandic Christmas tree tradition originates.
While the tale has changed over the years, the people of Iceland still pay homage to the 13 Yule Lads, even putting up larger-than-life displays of them in their town Christmas celebrations.
Finland Celebrates the Harvest
If you travel to Finland, you will find that they take their Christmas celebrations very seriously. This is because they believe Santa lives in Lapland, just north of Finland! They also have a theme park called “Christmas Land” that celebrates Christmas year-round.
When you enter the homes of the people of Finland, you will notice that their trees all have something similar in common: geometric shapes made from rye. These straw ornaments, called “himmeli,” are hung from the tree and over the dining table to pray for a good harvest that year.
Finland doesn’t leave their celebrations to just their people; they also bring their animals into the festivities! Farmers will hang a sheaf of wheat from a tree for the birds and nuts and suet from bags for their animals. So Finland must be an exciting place to celebrate Christmas.
Replicate Famous Christmas Tree Traditions
There are diverse enchanting Christmas tree traditions worldwide. The ones we have here are just a snippet into a vast galore of thrilling cultures. The knowledge of various ways to decorate a Christmas tree light births the urge to replicate one of the famous traditions in your home this season.
If you have this desire, proceed to make something beautiful out of your tree. You don’t have to stick to the standards you’re familiar with. There are countless shades of beauty you can choose to identify with.
What spurs you the most? Is it the Christmas lights, spiders, fruits, seashells, paper hearts, Yule lads, or harvest? You can identify with whichever resonates with you.
So long as you’re upholding the spirit of Christmas, it doesn’t matter if you aren’t from those parts. So as you decorate your Christmas tree, remember to spread the love and Joy of the season wherever you go. Make this Christmas the fulfillment of your deepest fantasies!
Make Your Tree Your Own
While the world shares some common traditions for Christmas, it is interesting to see how different countries have embraced the magic of Christmas in fun and creative ways. From how they decorate their Christmas trees to the types of gifts they receive, Christmas has an entire spirit because people never stop finding ways to embrace it specially.
The question here is, how do you choose to embrace Christmas? What does it mean to you? It doesn’t matter if it’s a cheesy fantasy you’ve had about Christmas ever since you were a child. Embrace the opportunity and make your own Christmas tree tradition happen!
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The more extraordinary your ideas are, the better. Who knows? Your nation or even the world may one day remember you like Hans Christian Anderson for starting a Christmas tradition in your country. So, get out there this holiday season and create new traditions with your family. Maybe one day your families’ traditions will become the stuff of legends.
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