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"I will hold Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year." - Charles Dickens.

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The Christmas Tree

    The custom of the Christmas tree can be traced back to Germany in 700 AD. According to legend, the British monk St. Boniface used an undecorated fir tree in his missionary efforts to convert tribe of Germans. Replacing the oak tree which was sacred to the Druids, St Boniface preached, "Let this be called the tree of the Christ Child". From then on, Germans began celebrating Christmas with the planting of a fir sapling.

    Another custom it seems that fir trees were used as Christmas decoration in Alsace in the 16th century. This region now belongs to France but during the 16th century it was German. It is said that in 1539 Christmas trees were being sold in Strasbourg, in Alsace.

    A play based on Adam and Eve, performed in Strasbourg in 1604, featured a fir tree decorated with apples and called the paradise tree in the Garden of Eden. This tree proved to be so popular that some families put similar trees in their homes.

    A more detailed story of the “paradise tree” told in the Alsace district is that the children of Rosheim in the Alsace wanted to perform a paradise play of the middle ages at Christmas time. To portray the Garden of Eden they needed a tree and as it was winter the only tree that was green was the fir tree.

    In the first act of the play, the children required an apple tree. They hung red apples on the tree so they could act out the story of disobedience.

    In the second act, they wanted to portray the light that the birth of Christ brought into the world, so they put candles on the tree and lit them.

    The third act was to portray the strength and substance that Jesus brought us (his disciples) and so they hung cookies on the tree.

    In this case the decorations on the tree had a much deeper meaning.

    It also appears that during the 17th century many German families decorated their homes with Christmas trees on the 24th of December, the religious feast day of Adam and Eve. It seems they initially trimmed the trees with wafers which was a sign of redemption. These were later replaced with cookies and nuts. Later again candles were added as a symbol of Christ.

    However, it is not until the 19th century that the Christmas tree became popular in Germany. There are accounts of the use of a tree with lights, in the letters and writing of various Germans. It is also featured in paintings and sketches of this period.

    Christmas Trees are always evergreen trees, because the evergreen tree is the "tree of life". It stays green all winter, and gives us the feeling of hope. In ancient cultures before Christ was born used to bring them into their homes. Some evergreens can even produce flowers and fruit during the winter, seemed magical to these people. People in Estonia and Latvia used to dress Christmas trees with artificial roses, and then set them on fire. They hoped to encourage an early Spring.

    There are a few types of Christmas trees include: Martin Luther, Julius Caesar.

    In 1834, Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert brought the first Christmas tree to Windsor Castle for the Royal family. This tradition then spread through to popular culture in Britain and the rest of the English speaking world.

    The Duchess of Orleans is said to have introduced the Christmas tree to France.

    Other famous Christmas greenery includes:
    * Holly, with large bright berries is the most popular Christmas plant. It was once believed that it was a protection against witches and the evil eye.
    * Rosemary, is traditionally associated with remembrance and friendship.
    * Others include: poinsettia, the Christmas Rose, the yew and the bay.

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