Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Oh, Tannenbaum

I can smell it now, that magical whiff of pine needles and oven-fresh mince pies. We dust off the Bing Crosby carol CD, and his velvet voice competes with the shrieks of the children. I love that cold afternoon when we turn up the heating and put up the tree.

The twinkling trees that light up the land between December and twelfth night have their roots in sixteenth century Germany (‘Tannenbaum’ means ‘fir tree’ in German). Folklore tells us that the triangular shape of the fir represented the holy trinity – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – and that originally Christmas trees were hung upside down.

Even the right way up, they didn’t really catch on with the English until, in December 1848, the London News printed a woodcut illustration of Queen Victoria with her German Prince Albert, standing in front of one. Victoria was a popular queen, and Christmas trees became quite the fashion after that.

Throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Christmas tree fashions came and went. In World War II they were forbidden except in public places where they were put up to boost moral. They returned in the glow of post-war nostalgia, and families gleefully shopped at Woolworth’s for baubles, tinsel, angels and stars. The psychedelic 60’s brought us tacky, pre-lit silver trees, and 1970’s housewives bought plastic green ones that didn’t drop needles on the carpet.

I have always thought that, like dogs, Christmas trees say something about their owners: Some are small and neatly tucked in the corner; some lush and gloriously overcrowded with quirky baubles; others a simple, quiet statement of elegance. Oh Tannenbaum, what a lot you have to tell us.

16 comments:

  1. I'm afraid my tannenbaum is artificial........ what does that say about me? LOL
    Lovely post!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree completely about what diferent trees say about their owners - christmas cards do pretty much the same. I can always match a card to the personality of the person who sent it. Great post.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have been through all those Chrismtas tree fashions during my life. I remember a small, silvery one when I was a small child in the 70s, a quite realistic looking plastic green one in the 1980s. When we first got married, we had a huge real one with very minimalist decor.

    And now, we have a smaller real one, up on a table so the children can't destroy it, still fairly minimalist but with a few decorations made by the boys....

    ReplyDelete
  4. Lovely post - you can see what mine looks like if you pop over - artificial and huge - that's me!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have no Christmas tree this year. What does that say about me? Probably that I am a scrooge and not into celebrating very much. It's my first Christmas alone and I'm finding it hard to get in the proper mood.

    ReplyDelete
  6. great post. i have a fake tree, though i am hardly fake! lol but what i decorate it with says a lot. i have my tree posted on my blog (it's actually my banner right now, too). it's filled w child-picked ornaments, child-made ornaments, hubs & stepson ornaments, a couple that people gave to me, some that i've used for years that were on my mom's tree as well, and a few new ones :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. What a good post! I had no idea trees werent 'done' during war time ..

    We've used the same menorah forever .. this year as in the past I will light it each night and wish my parents were still here to see it

    :-Daryl

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have tried to put up a real tree. The trees do not like to stand tall at night so they tip over. So I prefer a full, artificial tree - white lights, with and everything silver. Simple yet elegant.

    I did make some changes to Morning Java - It evolved once again. :)

    Welcome back!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I like this post a lot. You have a way with words.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi GBS!
    I never knew that Christmas trees were banned during WW11!
    Your post has got me missing England... the smell of Mince Pies! wow I haven't had mince pies in 10 years! can you believe that?! I miss you Mr.Kiplings!!
    Merry Christmas GBS!! You do write exceedingly good posts! x

    ReplyDelete
  11. And Christmas isn't complete till we have seen The Bells of Saint Mary and It's a Wonderful Life! The Potters of this world we leave far behind!
    Merry Christmas!
    Sandi

    ReplyDelete
  12. Crikey, Christmas tree psychology!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Oh that's a lovely post. Our tree is big and bright and decorated with quirky and cute stuff. Misses E and M decorate it with me. It's fake but looks real and saves on the trees. Sighhhhhh. I love Christmas.

    ReplyDelete
  14. What a beautiful post. Thats it. Just beautiful...and I'll be listening to Bing and Perry...
    Sandi

    ReplyDelete
  15. Very interesting post. I was not aware that Christmas trees were banned in WWII. We have a large artificial tree, neatly decorated.

    ReplyDelete