Santa Claus, creep

1969. | (Keystone/Getty Images)

1964. | (Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

1959. | (Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy Stock Photo)

1937. | (Fox Photos/Getty Images)

1949. | (Harry Todd/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

1956. | (Fox Photos/Getty Images)

1949. | (William Vanderson/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

1969. | (PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo)

1939. | (Parker/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

1941. | (Fred Morley/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

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Source:: The Week – Lifestyle

A brief history of Christmas trees

For most Americans, a tinsel-decked tree is a holiday essential. But why do we put decorated firs in our homes? Here’s everything you need to know:

How did the custom start?
As with many Christmas traditions, its roots go back to pagan times. Some Northern European pagans believed that the sun was a god and that he went through a yearly period of ill health in winter. They put up evergreen boughs on the winter solstice, around Dec. 21, the shortest day of the year — the evergreens reminding them of all the greenery that would grow again when the sun god regained his strength and spring arrived. Ancient Egyptians followed a similar tradition, adorning their homes with green palm fronds to mark the return of Ra, a hawk-headed god who wore the sun as a blazing crown. And ancient Romans used fir trees to decorate their temples during Saturnalia, a winter festival in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. Early Christian theologian Tertullian wasn’t a fan; in the 2nd century, he told his fellow believers to leave the plants and trees to the heathens, “over whom the fires of hell are imminent.”

When did Christians get on board?
That’s a matter of ongoing dispute. The Eastern European cities of Tallinn and Riga both claim to have hosted the first Christmas tree: Tallinn in 1441, Riga in 1510. Each city says the Brotherhood of Blackheads — an association of local unmarried merchants, shipowners, and foreigners in Livonia (now modern-day Estonia and Latvia) — erected a tree in their town square over Christmas, danced around it, and then set it alight. Around the same time, medieval Germans were incorporating evergreens into their own Christmastime rituals, via the “Paradise Tree”: an apple-adorned fir that represented the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. …read more

Source:: The Week – Lifestyle

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