There's no use in denying it any longer: Christmas will soon be upon us! Though to be honest it seems it's been upon us since October!
We've all moaned about it I guess, the shops putting their decorations up in September, Christmas adverts on the TV in October and piped Christmas carols everywhere you go in November. I often wonder if businesses have a competition to see who can be first.
I used to own a retail deli some years ago, and Christmas for me who start in July when I had to decide what to order from my suppliers! I too was guilty of forcing it on the public as my Christmas stock would be on the shelves on the 1st November. From experience I discovered that if I left it much later than this customers would go elsewhere for the goodies I sold.
Maybe we should all take a leaf out of Amsterdam's books: there it is not allowed by local law for ANYONE to display Christmas decorations, or shops to display products, until December 1st.
But to the matter in hand: the Christmas tree. When are we supposed to put it up and take it down?
The traditional decorated tree really originates from Germany. But even before its association with Christianity, trees have long be used as symbols. The Egyptians brought green palm branches into their homes on the shortest day of the year in December; people of Finland used groves instead of temples in ancient times; Romans decorated their homes with evergreens during a winter festival; Druids decorated oak trees with golden apples during the winter solstice and in the middle ages trees were hung with red apples as a symbol of the feast of Adam and Eve.
The first reference I could find for a fir tree decorated for Christmas is in Latvia in 1510 and later in Germany in 1531. German settlers introduced the Christmas tree to the United States in 1804, and Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, in 1841 put up a Christmas tree in Windsor Castle and the idea caught on in Britain.
Some use real trees, and some artificial. I have a small, two foot artificial one, as I long believed it was more environmentally sound. However I recently read that you have to use an artificial tree for at least 20 years before it surpasses the carbon footprint of using a real tree! I'm pretty close now, though it does smell a bit musty these days.
The triangular shape is meant to represent the Holy Trinity, and so originally the Christmas tree would not be put up until the night before on Christmas Eve. Another tradition is to put up the tree on 6th December, in honour of the death of St Nicholas, and take it down on Epiphany, on the 6th January. Most people these days say 12 days before, the 13th December, and 12 days after, which happens to be Epiphany anyway.
Where I live some people have gone bonkers with Christmas decorations. One house nearby has the entire front of their building covered in flashing and blinking lights. And they are three storeys up!
I never used to bother with any decorations until Pauline and I shared a home, and even stopped when she left on her world travel. But I'm pleased to say the tradition has returned. In terms of when I put it up: I like to stick to the 12 days before. Today in fact.