Christmas arrives and the polemics on the crib come on with the relative exploitation by politicians.

Georgia Melon, Mateo Salving, and Vittorio Sari come to mind but certainly, they will not be alone. The rhetorical tool used in these cases is, in general, to contrast the Nativity Scene with Santa Claus and Christmas lights, where the first would be the only Christian sign of Christmas: a pity that, instead, the latter is also the latter.

To be sure that even the Christmas tree is Christian, it would be enough to observe that it dominates St. Peter’s Square since the beginning of December but with the running times it is necessary to remember that Joseph Ratzinger wrote in 1978: “The trees adorned by Christmas time are not other than the attempt to translate these words into action: the Lord is present, so our forefathers knew and believed, so the trees must meet him, bow before him, become a praise for their Lord “. Then, as Pope, he had reiterated the same concept on several occasions as when he had defined the Christmas tree as an evident “symbol of Christ’s Christmas because with its ever-green leaves it recalls the life that does not die”. And besides the leaves, there are also the fruits, that is the Christmas balls. Because, as the liturgy has always reminded us, the Christmas tree also recalls the new tree of life, which is Christ, opposed to the tree “of death” which is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil from which Eve, he took the forbidden fruit: the fruit of the tree of the earthly paradise brought death to man while the fruit of the tree of the Cross brings Christ, new life.

Less known, perhaps, is that Santa Claus, in his root, is none other than Saint Nicholas of Bari: so not only is “Christian” but also holy. We know this from various historical data. There are depictions in which Nicholas, bishop of Myra in Turkey, is dressed in red sacred vestments, has a white beard that goes to the East and, with his head covered by the machine gun, is identical to Santa Claus. Even more than the images, its history is clear. It tells of how desperate, not having the dowry to give to their three daughters to marry them, he decided to make them the prostitute. Knowing what the bishop Nicholas, rich in family, had decided to secretly throw at night – not to humiliate – the bags full of gold coins money in the house of his father. The operation was repeated for all three daughters and for this reason often in the depictions of the saint we see three “balls” (or “bowls”) that are nothing but the three bags full of money. The episode occurred in the third century. Since then, multitudes of women who could not get married, and more generally people in need of money, began to turn to him.

This devotion, which also brought with it the habit of behaving like the saint, that is to say, “surprise” night gifts, spread very much: last year the relics of St. Nicholas, in Russia, were visited by two million and half of the people, so much so that even Putin went to venerate them in Bari on his Italian trip. And so Santa Claus, that is, Santa Klaus – which is what is called St. Nicholas in many countries – is loved in northern Europe: where in winter it is cold and there is snow, so St. Nicholas that is St. Klaus that is Santa Claus runs with the sleigh and the reindeer. Nativity scene, Santa Claus and Christmas tree, therefore, go together, not separated. As always, we must always do with things that concern Christ. The modern Christmas tree originated in Germany. But the Germans got it from the Romans who, in turn, got it from the Babylonians, and these from the Egyptians. “An old Babylonian tale tells of an evergreen tree that had come out of the trunk of a dead tree.The log was the symbol of Nimrod, dead, the new tree symbolized Nimrod returned to life in the person of Tammuz!

For the Druids the oak was sacred, among the Egyptians it was the palm, and among the Romans it was the pine tree that was decorated with red fruits during the saturnals. Although closely associated with Christianity, the Christmas tree is of pagan origin. In many pagan cultures c ‘ was the ‘ habit in December to bring down the conifers to put them in homes or in temples to celebrate the winter solstice, which took place between 20 and 23 December. These trees appeared to them as if they held magical powers that allowed them to resist the mortal power of darkness and cold. Among the legends surrounding the first use of the Christian Christmas tree, it is told that of a lumberjack who helps a hungry child. The following morning, the child appears to the woodcutter and to his wife as baby Jesus. These, breaking a pine branch, declares to the couple that it will bear fruit during the Christmas period. As announced, the tree was covered with gold apples and silver walnuts. Since 1700, the tradition of the “Christ Baum” “Christ tree” is already well established in Germany.

The Christmas tree in Alsace

But it is perhaps in Alsace that one must look for one of the origins of the modern Christmas tree. In this country, the charm of poetry has enveloped all the acts of public and private life. If tradition tells us that since 1521 it was decorated with branches cut 3 days before Christmas, we do not yet have the use of using the whole tree. In 1546, the city of Sélestat in Alsace allows you to cut green trees for Christmas, during the night of St. Thomas. However we find the oldest mention of the Christmas tree as a whole pine in a description of the uses of the city of Strasbourg, only in 1605. The following passage reads: “At Christmas, it is usual in Strasbourg, to raise pine trees in the houses, there are roses of paper of different colors, of apples, of colored wafers, of sugar, etc., etc. The Reformation he helped spread the custom of the Christmas tree, the Protestants preferring tree to representations of biblical characters from the Nativity nativity scene. According to widespread belief, Martin Luther, a sixteenth-century Protestant reformer, is the first to have decorated a tree with candles. He mentally prepared a sermon while walking on his way back home one winter’s evening, when he was struck and was impressed by the brilliance of the stars that shone through the woods. Wanting to reproduce the scene for his family, he erects a tree in the main hall and decorates the branches with lighted candles. Then, the custom of the decorated tree, from Germany extends to other parts of Western Europe and later to North America.

One of the oldest remains of the custom of the Christmas tree is still in its essence of the Catechism published in 1642-1646 by the Protestant pastor Dannhauer in Strasbourg. He cost that for some time, in Alsace, are hanging at Christmas, for the recreation of children, candy and toys in the branches of a pine.  He declares that he does not know where this custom comes from, from where he could draw his origin, which he strongly rehearses. It was in 1738 that Maria Leszczynska, wife of Louis XV, would install a Christmas tree in the castle of Versailles. In 1765 Goethe was in Leipzig, near a friend, in front of a Christmas tree, he expresses his surprise caused by the spectacle he saw for the first time.

   The Christmas tree in Europe and the Americas

The Christmas tree was introduced in Paris in 1840 by Princess Elena of Mecklenburg, Duchess of Orléans, and subsequently enhanced by Empress Eugenie. It is in Sorel, Quebec, that the Christmas tree makes its first appearance in North America, on the eve of Christmas in 1781, the Baroness Riesel who received a group of British and German officers. The English pudding is on the menu, but the highlight of the evening is the pine that has tree branches decorated with fruit and lit candles, standing in the corner of the dining room. After the painful tribulations that her family faced in the previous two years, the baroness decided to mark her return to Canada by celebrating the traditional German party. While Baron Frederic – Adolf Riesel commanded a group of German soldiers sent by the Duke of Brunswick to help defend Canada, his family and he had been captured and taken prisoner during the disastrous British offensive north of New York in 1777. their release in 1780, they returned to Sorel.

In England the fashion of the Christmas tree does not develop that in the nineteenth century, thanks to Prince Albert, the German spouse of Queen Victoria. Son of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg – Gotha (a duchy in central Germany), Alberto had grown up in the tradition of the Christmas tree, and when he married Victoria in 1840, he demanded from her the adoption of the German tradition. It was in New York in 1882 that a Christmas tree was illuminated for the first time by electricity. Edward Johnson, a colleague of Thomas Edison, decorates a tree with a thread filled with 80 small light bulbs that he himself manufactured. The production of these garlands of lights began around 1890. In Canada, one of the first electricity-lit Christmas trees was erected in Westmount, Quebec, in 1896. In 1900, department stores set up large, lit trees to attract clients. Bright, multicolored and as high as possible. Love it or not, it’s hard not to be fascinated in front of a Christmas tree made of sparkling hand-painted blown glass decorations. But what is its origin? Why do we all need a fir tree?

Digging through time it is difficult to find a certain date. For example, the ancient Romans used to exchange an evergreen plant like holly for the New Year, while the Celts were the first to use the spruce as a symbol of good luck. In the Nordic populations, in fact, the first day of winter was celebrated bringing home an evergreen tree, the only one able to face even the coldest temperatures without losing its needles. Who, instead, can boast of the title of tree city is Tallin in Estonia. In this case, there is a certain date and it is 1441, when a decorated tree was erected in the square of the Baltic city, around which men and women bachelors danced in search of their soul mate. On the contrary, a nice anecdote binds the Christmas tree to Germany. It is said that the duchess of Brieg was the first to make the Christmas tree in 1611 and everything was born by chance.

On the occasion of Christmas, the duchess used to decorate all her residences as a party, turning around in the rooms she realized that a corner was bare. That’s how he decided to have a fir tree positioned to fill that void. To get to the modern tree as we know it today, however, we must wait until the beginning of the nineteenth century. It was at this time that the European courts began to spread the fashion of decorating the fir with refined and unique decorations, at the time only in blown glass. In Vienna in 1816 the princess Henrietta von Nassau Weilburg created the first Christmas tree with glass decorations while, again in Austria, another legend says that she was the mother of Princess Sissi, Ludovica of Bavaria, the first to realize a perfect tree Christmas decorations with blown glass made especially by master blowers Czestochowa. A saleswoman who gave life to a tradition that still today makes Poland the home of blown glass ornaments. Even in Italy, the tree has noble origins. In fact, it is said that Queen Margherita di Savoia was the first to make a Christmas tree decorated with blown glass objects in the Quirinale rooms, which was already a must for decorations from Eastern Europe. An idea that immediately took hold throughout the boot and still shines in our homes today.

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