Now that we've covered Luxembourgish Christmas, the Kleeschen and Advent, it's time to focus on another typical Christmas tradition: Den Chrëschtbeemchen, otherwise known as the Christmas tree.
After spending a good chunk of my office time on Friday building a tiny forest out of blue Christmas trees for RTL Today Radio I started wondering. Where does the tradition of a 'Chrëschtbeemchen', as they are called in Luxembourg, come from? What is more sustainable, a plastic tree that lasts for years, a real one or maybe renting a Christmas tree?
So I made it my duty, honor and privilege to dive into the history of the Christmas tree and to finally find out why and when we came to the glorious idea to put a tree into our living room.
And if you scroll down, you'll might see a glimpse of said blue forest!
Christmas trees are definitely far from being a solely Luxembourgish tradition, but it is a tradition that is firmly established in our culture.
The Christmas tree we are familiar with today probably has its origins in pagan tradition. At the time of the winter solstice, people brought these trees into their homes. These green branches were a sign of life, were supposed to drive away winter spirits and promised protection and fertility.
In the late Middle Ages, Christianity found it's way into the mix: The church began to depict biblical scenes in order to teach the uneducated people. For the paradise story, of course, a 'paradise tree' was needed. This had to be evergreen. The fruit of knowledge, on the other hand, was initially a red apple: "The birth of the later Christmas tree.
The green tree with the apple was not originally used to tell the Christmas story - but that of Adam and Eve and the serpent. In the course of time, the "tree of paradise" developed a connection to the Christmas story - and can therefore be regarded as the archetype of the Christmas tree later decorated with golden nuts, biscuits and baubles.
But the step from evergreen branches in the house to the decorated Christmas tree seems to have been taken first in south-west Germany: The tree was first decorated with tinsel in Nuremberg in 1878. The thin, mostly golden or silver metal threads are supposed to look like glittering icicles.
A Christmas tree filled with tinsel, indeed looking like glittering icicles. Very old-school as many people nowadays prefer baubles over tinsel. / © Unsplash
Emigrants and German soldiers who fought in the American War of Independence also made it popular in the New World in the course of the 19th century and in 1891, a "Christmas Tree" stood in front of the White House in Washington for the first time.
The tradition of another famous Christmas tree has its origins in the Second World War the tree on Trafalgar Square in London always comes from Norway.
It is supposed to commemorate the joint struggle of the two countries against Nazi Germany.
During Christmas time
Now that we've established that Christmas trees actually had nothing to do with Christmas in the first place, we should take a closer look at what makes a tree a Christmas tree, starting with the proper time.
For many people Christmas starts on December 1, with many starting to decorate their houses and eventually getting a tree around mid-December. While everyone is of course free to choose when and what to bring into their house during the festive period, there are fixed dates. Dates that barely anyone follows.
I didn't know until I spent several Christmases with Germans that traditionally, the Christmas tree is put up and decorated on 24 December so that it shines in all its glory on Christmas Eve.
But many people put up their Christmas tree on 23 December. This has a practical benefit: It allows branches that have become trapped during packing and transport to unfurl beautifully overnight.
4th Advent is also a good day in some families to hoist the Christmas tree into the Christmas tree stand.
The Christmas tree is then traditionally taken down on 6 January, the Twelfth Night and taken out of the flat or house and disposed of, because this is when the Christmas season ends in the Christian tradition. In some Catholic households, however, the tree remains until 2 February, Candlemas.
Real or fake Christmas tree?
Considering the current state of our planet and the urge to make better choices, yet still wanting to indulge in that holiday spirit, the question may arises if it's better to buy a real tree that last's for a year or maybe a plastic tree that should last a long time.
The answer might be a bit counter intuitive as many might argue that a plastic tree would be more sustainable since it can last for a long time if cared for. But actually it's the real tree!
An average-sized Christmas tree takes around 7 years to grow and in that time they absorb carbon and use up to 10 times fewer resources than factories that build artificial trees. And don't forget that they are much easier to recycle and can be repurposed many ways after they did their jobs in our living room.
But there is another option and that is to rent a Christmas tree! And believe it or not, you can even do this here in Luxembourg. In this case you'll get a 'live' Christmas tree in a pot.
Such a tree can be rented around three to four years, depending on size, age and of course if the previous owners took great care or not. After serving as decoration, the tree then has a year to rest before it gets rented out again. Retired trees will then get donated to municipalities or planted in a forest where they can enjoy the rest of their lives in freedom.
Seems like a pretty good deal if you ask me! I'll definitely look into renting a tree next time I'll get one.
I hope this answered a few of your Christmas tree related concerns, if you ever had any, it sure did for me.
Wishing you all an amazing time before Christmas. And please take care of your tree if you rent one! :-)
And as promised here is a little behind the scenes:
Iris and I in our magical Christmas forest.