The evergreen fir tree has traditionally been used to celebrate winter festivals and Christmas for thousands of years. The first documented Christmas tree was in Rīga, put up in the guildhall of the Brotherhood of Blackheads - an association of merchants and ship owners.
|photo source here|
Decorated with sweets and paper flowers, the tree was meant to be enjoyed by the apprentices and children. On the last night of the celebrations leading up to the holidays, the tree was taken to the town hall square where the members of the brotherhood danced around it; eventually, similar to the yule log, it was set on fire.
Other early Christmas Trees in northern Europe were small cherry or hawthorn trees, transplanted into pots and brought inside to flower for Christmas. The customs have varied from century to century, year to year, fads including Christmas trees made from aluminum, white trees, fake trees and everything in between.
Our Christmas tree tradition is to bring home our fir sometime in December, decorate it with lights and ornaments, and leave it to grace our living room until early January. When I was a little girl my parents often bought a small tree for my sister’s and my room, to decorate as we wished. This year we inherited a small tree from our friends who are traveling for the holidays, and so a new tradition has been born. Lauris and Mikus have a space to put all the ornaments they made, and each night they fall asleep in the soft glow of Christmas lights.
For me it wouldn’t be Christmas without the smell of balsam in our home, the constant vigilance needed to protect the lights and ornaments from toddlers, the inevitable “shoot! I forgot to water the tree and now it’s not drinking any more” and the dry needles being vacuumed up for the next ten months. Just remember, you have Latvia to thank for this wonderful tradition!
With only several more days left in the 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas series, I want to wish all my readers good luck in the last preparations for the holidays. May the traffic be light, the wait to check out merry, and may there be plenty of time to read a Christmas book to the children in your lap.
PS Because this is the Baltic Christmas series I would be remiss if I didn't mention that some claim Estonia had the first Christmas tree. For more about this hotly contested title, you can read this article from the Wall Street Journal.