It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
Before Halloween has even had its debut, most stores start putting up 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 has been embraced in many different 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 to know that not everyone decorates their trees with lights and ornaments.
Each country has their own unique spin on the Christmas tree, and some of their traditions may just inspire some of your own.
Germany – Where It All Started
Did you know that Germany is credited with 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 went home and added lit candles to his tree and the rest is history. From that day forward, Christians began bringing trees in to their homes and decorating them with lights as a way of celebrating the Christmas season.
People of Germany also found other ways to create a lit Christmas tree. If they were unable to bring a tree into their home, they created Christmas pyramids out of wood and decorated them with evergreen branches and candles.
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 to as a nod to tinsel that is used to decorate trees today.
France Likes their Fruits
For centuries, France has used real fruit to decorate their Christmas trees, particularly the red apple as it 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 carried forward today.
The French also decorate their tree with wafer cookies to symbolize redemption though the act of communion, where the wafer represents the body of Christ.
Australia Goes for a Beachy Look
While many of us in the United States are buried under snow for the holiday season, Australia celebrates their 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.
Australians love the outdoors, especially during the holidays, and rather than decorating their homes with wintery baubles you will instead find ferns and evergreens adorning their homes in addition to colorful flowers on their Christmas bellflower plant.
Denmark Decorates with Homemade Paper Hearts
Denmark holds a tradition that supposedly was started by Hans Christian Anderson himself. Denmark Christmas trees are adorned with homemade paper hearts called “julehjerte” that are made by plaiting red and white paper together.
These hearts can then be filled with nuts or sweets before hanging on the Christmas tree. If you visit the Hans Christian Anderson museum in Odense, you can see one of these original hearts on display.
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 are decorated with figures of the Yule Lads, which represent the 13 “Santa’s” 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. If the child has been bad, however, legend states they will find a rotting potato in their shoe!
While the tale has changed over the years, 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 that Santa himself lives in Lapland which is 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.
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 on its on because people never stop finding ways to embrace it in their own way.
So, get out there this holiday season and create some new traditions with your family. Maybe one day your families’ traditions will become the stuff of legends.
Traditional Christmas Ornaments