There are lots of Christmas traditions surrounding Christmas trees.
The story goes that they came to England when Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria got married and started to celebrate Christmas here.
But the European tradition was over 300 years old even then. The Romans used to bring evergreen trees into their homes in midwinter. It seems to have been a way to bring colour and liveliness indoors during the long dark winter days. As well as this the branches were supposed to help keep bad things away from the home.
Sometimes the trees were hung upside down from hooks. Sometimes a cutting from a cherry or hawthorn bough was potted and brought inside in the hope that it would flower in the heart of winter. A cheaper alternative was to make a pyramid of wood in the shape of a fir tree and decorate it with paper and apples and candles. These could be carried around from home to home or be used in ‘Miracle Trees’ to remember the tree of knowledge in the garden of Eden. Trees seem to have been carried around towns followed by a man on a horse dressed at Saint Nicholas (who we now think of as Father Christmas). Sometimes they were set in a town square and used as a gathering place and finally burned as part of the seasonal celebrations.
At some stage the trees were brought in side and Germans would decorate them with candles and gingerbread, pretzels and gold covered apples, roses and sweets. Originally a little model of baby Jesus was put on top of the tree, but then was replaced by an angel (which became a fairy later on) or a star.
Now we have adapted these ancient traditions. But still many of us love to decorate the Christmas tree. Some of us do it early on, perhaps in November and others decorate it on Christmas Eve. We have found our own ways of doing Christmas.
Part of this development is that we have many decorations hung on the tree.
Because this year is so wonky and different from the usual Christmases, we could try to do something a little bit different.
Using a salt dough mix we can make solid shapes to bake and then paint and hang from the tree. You can’t eat them but they can look really quite beautiful.
Salt Dough Recipe
- Mix a cup of plain flour, half a cup of salt and half a cup of water to make a solid dough.
- Roll it out on a floured surface nice and flat just under a centimeter thick. Then use a cookie cutter of a Christmassy shape, a star perhaps or a gingerbread man. Make a hole in the shape so that when it is finished you can thread a ribbon through it. Carefully place them in a baking tray covered with grease proof paper and bake it slowly at a low heat until it is hard.
- Let the shapes cool on a wire rack. When the shapes are dry you can paint them or cover them with glue and glitter and there you have charming little decorations or perhaps presents for people.
- If you have a lot of time to cook them you can model shapes instead, but it is quite expensive to keep an oven running for several hours.
Perhaps if you are feeling like doing some baking you could look up a German gingerbread recipe and make tasty little decorations.
Have a fun time getting ready for the holidays.
Someone asks Winnie the Pooh what he likes best.
“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.”
― A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
Remember that looking forward to something is almost the best part!