CHRISTMAS COMPARED > Christmas in the USA and Germany
Christmas in Austria, Germany, Switzerland | 2
“O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
wie treu sind deine Blätter!
Du grünst nicht nur zur Sommerzeit,
nein auch im Winter, wenn es schneit.”
TEXT: Ernst Anschütz, Leipzig, 1824, set to a traditional tune.
Various “Tannenbaum” songs and ballads date from 1550.
MORE > German Christmas Carols - Lyrics in German and
English - from AboutGerman.net
Germany’s Tannenbaum (Christmas Tree)
The German religious reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546) is often credited with starting the Christmas tree custom, but the first appearance of a Tannenbaum was recorded in Germany many years after Luther’s death. It was in 1605 in Strasbourg in Alsace, then in Germany, that a chronicler wrote (in old German): “Auff Weihenachten richtett man Dahnnenbäum zu Strasburg in den Stuben auff...” (“At Christmas they set up Christmas trees in Strasbourg in their rooms...”).
The Austrians, Germans, and Swiss are now using more “electric candles” for tree decoration, but many a Germanic Christbaum continues to glow with the warm light of real wax candles. (Germans use special candle holders and have learned how to do this safely; the candles are not left to burn for a long time or without someone in the room.)
The use of evergreens as a Christmas symbol of everlasting life goes back much further than even the 1550s, but still with a Germanic connection. St. Boniface is said to have introduced the use of evergreens in connection with his efforts to Christianize the Germanic tribes in the 8th century. He dedicated the fir tree (Tannenbaum) to the Christ Child, displacing the pagan oak tree of Odin.
A more recent “old” Bavarian tradition is the so-called “Bride’s Tree,” upon which a dozen special ornaments are hung to help ensure a better life for a married couple. The 12 ornaments and their symbolic significance are: angel (God’s guidance), bird (joy), fish (Christ’s blessing), flower basket (good wishes), fruit basket (generosity), heart (true love), house (protection), pine cone (fruitfulness), rabbit (hope), rose (affection), Santa (goodwill), and teapot (hospitality). Special hand-blown glass ornaments in these forms are still produced in Bavaria.
NEXT > Advent and Christmas
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Related Pages - Christmas
- Christmas - German Christmas customs
- Advent and Christmas - The “arrival”
- A German Christmas - from A to Z - An alphabetical guide
- Barbarazweig - The legend and the Christmas custom.
- Cultural Comparisons: Christmas in Germany and the USA - Comparing Christmas traditions
- The German Pickle Ornament - Is it really a German tradition?
- Glass Ornaments - a history
- St. Nicholas and Santa - The many German St. Nicks
- Silent Night (Stille Nacht) - Our “Silent Night” page has the true story and related links.
- Christmas Links - Our links list is so large, it has a page of its own!
- A German Advent Calendar - Daily Christmas facts starting on Dec. 1 (in season)
- German Christmas Carols - Lyrics in German and English - from AboutGerman.net.
NEXT > Advent and Christmas