Dazzling lights abound as Christmas approaches. Many folks go all out and are quite artistic with their display of Christmas lights. Its fun to travel the streets of Mountain City and the roads of Johnson County and see the lights that folks have put up. Some are just pinpoint white lights while others are multicolored. The lights are cleverly strung and show an artistic bent in the creator of the light display.
Lights and Christmas trees seem to go together as many of the lights adorn a natural tree. Others are at their splendor on an artificial tree. Recently I was thinking about Christmas and the various ways people celebrate it and one thing that stood out in my mind was the Christmas tree and how it has become a part of the Christmas celebration. I decided to do a little research on the subject. I found that pagans and Christians both have used fir trees to celebrate winter festivals for thousands of years. Christians use the trees as a sign of everlasting life with God.
Nobody can pinpoint when Fir trees were originally used as Christmas trees, but it was probably about 1000 years ago in Northern Europe. Also early on cherry or hawthorn plants were put into pots and brought inside so they would hopefully flower at Christmas time.
The first known use of a tree at Christmas and New Year celebrations is in the town square of Riga, the capital of Latvia in1510. The first person to bring a Christmas tree into a house like we use it today is thought to be the German theologian Martin Luther. In Germany, the first Christmas Trees were decorated with edible things such as gingerbread and cold covered apples. Later special small ornaments were by glassmakers.
It was not until sometime in the 1830s that Christmas Trees came to Britain. The popularity of the Christmas tree increased in 1841 when Prince Albert (Queen Victorias German husband) had a Christmas tree set up in Windsor Castle. It seems other than intelligent to todays folks, but there was a time when real candles were used to decorate a tree. I guess a lot of houses went up in flame during that time. In 1895, Ralph Morris invented the first electric Christmas lights like the ones we use today. Dont we owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Morris!
Of course, there are many other traditions that have been introduced over the many years of Christmases. Caroling, sending of Christmas cards, gift exchanging and more are a part of the Christmas season. Christmas carols are special songs which are sung during the Christmas season and are often about Jesus and the time when he was born. The word carol comes form the ancient Greek choros which means dancing in a circle, and from the Old French word carole which means a song to accompany dancing. While not a carol as the definition goes, Irving Berlins White Christmas, is the biggest-selling Christmas song of all time. It sold about 350 million copies on record and sheet music.
As we enjoy the lights, carols, cards, plays, special dinners and other pleasantries of Christmas, may we not forget the reason for it all Jesus the Christ was born!