It's official: first Xmas tree in 1539
18 November 2003, BERLIN - Germany invented much of the way modern Christmas is celebrated including the beloved Christmas tree but there has long been dispute over the exact year of the first decorated evergreen.
18 November 2003
BERLIN - Germany invented much of the way modern Christmas is celebrated including the beloved Christmas tree but there has long been dispute over the exact year of the first decorated evergreen.
Seeking to set the record straight, Germany's Agriculture Ministry says the earliest proven sale of a Christmas tree dates back to 1539 although the trees did not become widely popular until the late 18th century.
This historically documented sale date side-steps debate over when the first Christmas tree was put up even though it's generally agreed to have been in Germany or possibly the Baltic states.
Unconfirmed dates for the first Tannenbaum, as Germany's Christmas tree is called, range from 1521 in the then German-dominated region of Alsace (today part of France) or even 1510 in Latvia.
The agriculture ministry notes that Christmas trees are based on ancient pagan traditions - not Christianity - under which evergreen branches were brought into homes as a symbol of protection and to drive off evil spirits.
Given Germany's role in popularising the Christmas tree, it is interesting to note preferences for the type of tree used have been changing in recent years.
Spruce, which had been popular, is in decline partly because it swiftly looses its needles. Gaining popularity are various types of fir which keep their needles for up to three months after being cut, said the ministry. In eastern Germany with its poorer soils the pine tree remains popular in some regions.
Between 23 million and 25 million Christmas trees are sold in Germany each year, most of them home-grown or imported from Denmark.
Subject: German news