CHRISTMAS TREE TRADITION HAS ANCIENT ORIGINS
King Tut never saw a Christmas tree, but he would have understood the tradition which traces back long before the first Christmas, says David Robson, Extension Educator, Horticulture with the Springfield Extension Center.
The Egyptians were part of a long line of cultures that treasured and worshipped evergreens. When the winter solstice arrived, they brought green date palm leaves into their homes to symbolize life's triumph over death.
The Romans celebrated the winter solstice with a fest called Saturnalia in honor of Saturnus, the god of agriculture. They decorated their houses with greens and lights and exchanged gifts. They gave coins for prosperity, pastries for happiness, and lamps to light one's journey through life.
Centuries ago in Great Britain, woods priests called Druids used evergreens during mysterious winter solstice rituals. The Druids used holly and mistletoe as symbols of eternal life, and place evergreen branches over doors to keep away evil spirits.
Late in the Middle Ages, Germans and Scandinavians placed evergreen trees inside their homes or just outside their doors to show their hope in the forthcoming spring.
Our modern Christmas tree evolved from these early traditions.
It is interesting how these traditions traveled around the world. Most probably England was the 1st country outside central Europe. Queen Victoria often visited relatives in Germany in the town of Coburg and while there she fell in love with a young Prince Albert. After they got married they returned to England to raise their family.
The tree that Price Albert provided his family was admired by all in England. It was decorated in the finest of hand blown glass ornaments. Since everyone liked the Queen they copied her Christmas customs including the Christmas tree and ornaments.
A F.W. Woolworth brought the glass ornament tradition to the United States in 1890. From 1870's to 1930's, Germans made the finest molds for making ornaments with nearly 5,000 different molds at the time. At the turn of the century there were over one hundred small cottage glass blowing workshops in Europe. Today only two respected German factory teams are capable of producing ornaments to the precise specifications of the Christopher Radko collection.
During the hay day of turn of the century ornament making, almost all ornaments were made in Lauscha, a small town nested in the Thuringian mountains. After the war, however, glass ornament production declined. Many of the craftsmen left for West Germany. Quantity rather than quality, was the Communist management philosophy. Some old molds fell into disrepair and many others were left to collect dust or were lost.In the 1960's it was fashionable to have an Aluminum tree and all the same shape and color ornaments. Many threw away the old ornaments from Germany. It was in the 1980's that Christopher Radko brought back the old art of making the glass ornaments for all to enjoy."
From the book "Christopher Radko, The First Decade"