The Truth about Christmas Traditions: The Christmas Tree

I love the Christmas holiday and everything that comes with the month of December. I revert back to a childlike state at the mere mention of the holidays! I'll listen to Christmas music in the car, watch movies like A Christmas Story, Elf, It's a Wonderful Life several times and have a general feeling of excitement during the entire month of December.  But when it comes to different Christmas traditions, I have no idea as to why we celebrate in such a way.  Over the next few days, I want to take a look at three traditions that I loved as a child, and that I still look forward to each year: the Christmas tree, stockings hung on the mantle and Santa Claus! The Christmas Tree: Pine, Pine, Pine! I love the smell of freshly cut pine, and to be honest, I even light a few pine candles around the house to really indulge my senses around the holidays and emphasizes the natural smell of the tree.  The tradition began in Germany, where trees would be decorated in connection with festivities taking place in the different German towns, and from there, it spread to other parts of Europe. German theologian Martin Luther  put candles on the branches as symbols of the stars twinkling among the forest’s trees. I love this fact, as it adds a romantic notion to the holiday.

Christmas trees weren't popular here in the United States until the mid-19th century.  In 1850, an image of the English royal family standing in front of a Christmas tree was copied and brought to the United States, which resulted in upper class Americans embracing the tradition. In the following decades, Christmas trees became popular among the rest of the population, with roughly 25-30 million Americans enjoying a fresh pine tree every year.  The star or angel placed at the top of the tree represents  the Star of Bethlehem or the host of angels from the nativity.

The environmental  debate between real vs. artificial trees is ongoing.  Some say that the PVC used in the production of artificial trees is harmful, with the lead in some of the older trees being the issue.  A study claims that one must use their artificial Christmas tree for 20 years to leave an environmental footprint as small as the natural Christmas tree.  On the other hand, the real trees are completely biodegradable and can be reused by tree farms or local governments as wood chips or mulch.  For the environmentalists out there, a Life Cycle Analysis report states that a natural tree will generate 3.1 kg of greenhouse gases every year whereas the artificial tree will produce 48.3 kg over its lifetime.

Recently in Washington, DC we saw the lighting of the National Christmas Tree.  An interesting fact: In 1979, President Jimmy Carter only lit the top star on the tree in honor of the American hostages in Iran. Stay tuned for a detailed look at the National Christmas tree and Christmas in the Nations Capitol, as well as other traditions in the spirit of the holidays...

What are your favorite holiday traditions? And do you thrive and become a giddy child at the first notes of Christmas music like I do?