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Deep sumptuous reds and greens are the traditional colours of course, but these days, anything goes, and the brighter the better! Who doesn’t love strings of fairy lights and sparkling silver tinsel draped round a tree dripping in brightly coloured baubles? Granted some do go a little over the top these days when it comes to exterior illuminations, but we have to admit, they still make us smile.
So where did it all come from, this idea of filling your home with a pile of festive bits and pieces that only appear once a year? Let’s go back to basics and start with the Christmas tree. Way before one was introduced into the home, before Christianity even, people believed that hanging boughs of evergreens on your door protected you from evil spirits, witches and illness. Pagans believed that celebrating green during the winter months would encourage the return of green in the spring. The Ancient Egyptians used green palms to celebrate the triumph of life over death. Even the early Romans marked the winter solstice with boughs of evergreens as a symbol of everlasting life.
With the perceived power of the evergreen seeped in thousands of years of history, it’s no surprise that when Christmas started to become a larger celebration, an evergreen was the tree of choice. Germany is credited with kicking it off in the 16th Century when trees were hung upside down from the ceiling using chains. Over here, in 1841 it was Queen Victoria who really got the Christmas look going when Prince Albert had a tree erected at Windsor Castle, and a drawing of the Royal Family was published in the Illustrated London News standing around it. Suddenly, everyone wanted one! Cut to now, and we consume a whopping 8 million trees a year. Interestingly, most 19th Century Americans thought putting a tree up in your house rather odd, and as late as the 1840s they considered them ‘pagan symbols’. The US now leads the way with over 40 million Christmas trees sold annually!
Moving onto decorations, again the Germans are credited with creating a fair few of them. Take tinsel, for example. Invented there in the early 1600s, it was originally made out of real shredded silver until they realised the candles on the tree (yes, they used real candles!) turned the tinsel black, so they decided to use tin and lead instead.
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