Sunday, December 14, 2008

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Firs, Not Furs


Oh, Christmas tree! The holiday exists not without thee! The tinsel, the ornaments, the star, the smell of the pine, the ribbons, the candy canes hung 'pon thy branches: all sing to me, "Yoo-hoo! Chsitmas is here!" The day, it centers around thee: the gifts hiding below, the people talking in front, the cat climbing inside. What better way to celebrate the birth of Jesus?

Besides cigars with this guy, of course

Oh, sure, some may disagree. Oliver Cromwell believed decorating a tree for Christmas was a heathen practice. He thought the same thing about singing carols, and banned them both while he reigned as Lord Protector of England, Ireland, and Scotland.

Epic Douche

Of course, Cromwell was also taken out of his grave for a public hanging and beheading, so it would seem some Britishers quite liked these customs, thank you very much.

Meanwhile, a number of sources claim the Christmas tree has origins that are Biblically-inspired. It is said St. Boniface, stopping the pagan sacrifice of a child, destroyed a tree with a punch to its trunk. In its place, a fir tree sprang up, which Boniface declared to be a symbol of Jesus Christ. (I like to imagine he said this by screaming, "Here's my God, motherfuckers!" before leveling them with a flick of his wrist)

Fact: Sean Connery is St. Boniface

Others claim Martin Luther, he of the 95 Theses, decorated a tree at home after seeing stars through the brances of a tree. What inspires you more: arse-kicking Catholic, or Protestant who enjoys taking walks through the woods?
Interesting that these Christmas customs have such Messianic roots, as much of the holiday is, in fact, more or less ripped off of a Roman holiday celebrating the temple of Saturn, wherein slaves and masters would reverse roles for a whole week. The experts agree, though: the tree itself is a German thing.
Guilds, cathedrals, town halls, family homes, the shoulders of a tailor's apprentices, all held what would be known as a Christmas Tree. Such things are chronicled in historical records dating from the 16th century. The 17th century is acknowledged as the start of such traditions taking place in the home, but it was not until the 1800s that the tradition spread to other countries. In Russia and Europe, it was a mostly royal tradition, while in America, towns in Connecticut and Pennsylvania would all lay claim to being home of the First American Christmas Tree.

Still, it is the Germans who get the credit. For instance, it is said that an imprisoned Hessian soldier erected the first tree in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. The first decorated tree finds its origins in the hands of German immigrant Charles Follen of Boston, Massachusetts.

He was also part-owl
Another German immigrant, August Imgard of Ohio, was the first to decorate the tree with candy canes. This is FACT, as verified by National Confectioner's Association.

Today, of course, it's a great tradition, recognized by families, businesses, and cities the world over. Rockefeller Center has a Bad-Ass Christmas Tree, while the Danes light their trees with candles.

Christmas in Denmark
Some have fake trees, some have real ones. Some light up spectacularly, some are conservatively adorned in ribbon and hand-me-down ornaments. Some have themes, some are Christmas trees, and therefore don't need a frickin' theme.

Some are carried by pachyderms
I can't wait to get home and see that thing all lit up. I can't wait to sit around the tree with my family, singing along to Christmas songs. I can't wait to hang up my Godfather Drosselmeyer ornament in all its dancing glory. Glorious!

Somewhere in, in the distant night
I hear Christmas bells
The gentle snow keeps falling down on people
Who are homeward bound
That's the way it's always been
The circle really never ends
Christmas seems to come and go
From the place that I don't know
Holly leaves and Christmas trees
It's that time of year

Lights aglow and mistletoe
Don't mean a thing when you're not here
As I walk, walk this lonely street
The sound of snow beneath my feet
I'll think of how it used to be
Holly leaves and Christmas trees
Used to mean so much to me

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