Do you know where christmas trees originally started?
It is reported that the first Christmas trees were seen in Germany, sometime in the 16th Century, when Christians bought decorated trees into their homes and the tradition of the Winter Solstice was converted into the newly found Christmas by Christians. America apparently saw their first Christmas tree in the mid 1700's which was erected by German Settlers. That's really not that long ago.
Up until the 1840's Christians in America thought that Christmas trees were pagan symbols and wouldn't put them up, it seems those people had some understanding of history and where all this greenery started. As far back as mid 1600's, it was seen as an offence to celebrate, sing songs and decorate homes to celebrate this season, they actually fined people for hanging decorations in their homes. The only thing they were allowed to do was attend a church service on December 25th. How un-fun is that! Luckily, today it is totally acceptable to decorate, sing, feast and celebrate all you like!
Without getting too historical on you though, it actually all started way back in ancient civilisations, remember I said that Winter Solstice was changed into Christmas. Although today some cultures and religions celebrate Christmas as a Christian Holiday, this is not how it all began, Christianity is of course only around 2000 years old, just take a look at the date (2019).
Greenery has been used for many more years. The ancient civilisations had a pretty hard time during winter, there weren't houses with heating like we have now, so winter, especially in colder countries was pretty harsh. They were very excited when the shortest day and night of the year arrived, around the 20-23rd December as it signalled the beginning of the end of winter. This time is known as the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, such as Europe and the America's, and Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, here in Australia.
In these ancient civilisations people would decorate their houses during the Winter Solstice using evergreen plants, taking boughs or branches and placing over door ways, and by their fires to celebrate that the warmer weather was on it's way and they would soon have crops growing which of course meant fresh food. The ancient Egyptians celebrated the return of Ra, the Sun God at this time, also using greenery, in the the form of palm leaves, as did the Romans. The Scandinavian Vikings used greenery to celebrate too. They all had feasts in honour of the season, the Romans had a special feast dedicated to their Sun God, Saturn, the feast was called Saturnalia. The Druids and Celts also celebrated Winter Solstice using greenery.
Ok, now we've got the history out the way, how about how we do it today?
Well, I don't know about you but I personally love putting up the Christmas Tree. Even in Australia where we are actually celebrating Summer Solstice at this time, it is super fun getting into the spirit of christmas and decorating our houses. Pretty much everyone gets in a decorates a tree, hangs a door wreath and gets into gift giving and has a big feast on Christmas Day.
My husband's family didn't really make a big deal out of the Tree Trimming thing, but I love it, so I now involve them and we get together for a tree trimming celebration, it's a super nice thing to do as a family. The boys get a bit bored after the first ornament but the girls in the family love it, including their grandmother, aunty, my daughter and myself, although the food always keeps the boys and the men in close proximity.
I like to celebrate with a grazing platter, which has savoury and sweet nibbles and of course, Champagne, it's a celebration after all. It's also the start of the Christmassy food, such as gingerbread and our family favourite, Pannettone, which is Italian Christmas cake, pictured below.
We also love Pfeffernusse, a german biscuit, it's a soft spiced gingerbread dipped in a thin layer of icing. My daughter is already into the Pannettone and Pfefernusse. She loves Christmas too! If you're keen to give them a try, our local Aldi Supermarket has them already and I'm sure you can find a local supermarket or deli that has them too.
Here's a few super simple ideas for you, firstly some bubbles, just a few baubles and ribbons on a metallic tray look great with Champagne glasses filled with your favourite bubbles, try French Champagne or Italian Prosecco, you can always add a bit of Aperol and make yourself an Aperol Spritz. Some super simple chocolate truffles layered up into a christmas tree you can use any chocolate truffles, lindt balls are great for this, you can dust with a little sifted icing sugar to make them look a little snowy add a few baubles and a ribbon or two and you have a festive looking treat. This can also be done kids, they'll love it!
Simple antipasto plates, if you're not into cooking this is great, just grab the ingredients from a store and pop them on a wooden chopping board. Add some super easy cookies or gingerbread, which once again if you're short on time can be bought in stores and wrapped with a ribbon to make them look handmade, pop them next to some baubles and ribbon or greenery and add a couple of candy canes. I obviously prefer to bake my own, but if you don't have time these are super easy ways to get stylish quickly!
One thing I also love doing is making cookies and putting a little hole in the top, threading through some ribbon and hanging these on the tree as edible ornaments. They look great, give a gorgeous gingerbread smell and you can nibble one as you wander past. A word of caution to those of us in hot climates, these can go soft if it's too humid, they are great when it's cold and a heater is one but in Australia they can go a bit soft. If that could be you, make some little envelopes out of baking paper and pop the cookie inside, using the ribbon to hang the baking paper, no need to put a hole in the cookie for these ones. Just another cheats tip, sometimes you can buy gingerbread stars with holes in them, I remember seeing them in Ikea one Christmas, check your local stores in case you like this idea but again have no time for baking.
I'll show you more about ornaments, trimming the tree etc. in upcoming blogs, we'll trim ours early so I can give you some inspo for your tree trimming.