Christmas Fact 14


German Advent Calendar: Fact of the Day

14. Dezember – Der Adventskalender

Der WeihnachtsbaumThe German Christmas Tree

Tree

The history of the Christmas tree is not entirely clear, but its German origins are fairly well documented. Although the pre-Christian Germanic tribes venerated the evergreen, the first written record connecting evergreens with Christmas dates from December 1521 in Schlettstadt in Alsace (Elsass, then German, now part of France). A document reveals that “Christmas boughs” were cut in the Kiensheimer forest. Later, in 1539, we have the first record of Christmas trees being sold in Strasbourg (Strassburg), also in Alsace. Slowly the Christmas tree custom spread eastward into central Germany. The legend of the German Protestant reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546) introducing the Christmas tree seems to be just that, a myth.

If Luther had introduced the Christmas tree custom, it probably would have spread faster throughout Germany than it did. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) did not mention Christmas trees in any of his literary works until 1774 when his bestselling novel Die Leiden des jungen Werther was published. Goethe saw his first Weihnachtsbaum in Strasbourg, but by the late 1800s, it was common to see a Tannenbaum in homes all across Germany.

Whether helped by Goethe’s reference to it in Werther or not, the German Christmas tree soon made its way across Europe. Several royal Germans are credited with helping extend the tree decorating custom beyond Germany’s borders. The Duchess of Orleans (from Mecklenburg) brought it to Paris, while other Germanic royals brought the Christmas tree to England and other European countries. But it was commoners – emigrants from Germany – who brought the Tannenbaum custom to America. More…

German words for “Christmas tree” (all der): Christbaum, Tannenbaum, Weihnachtsbaum.

CAROL > “O Tannenbaum” – Lyrics in German and English

WEB > Weihnachtsbaum (Wikipedia – Deutsch)
WEB > Christmas tree (Wikipedia – English)

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