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Christmas Trees

Christmas Trees:

All aspects of Christmas observance have their roots in Roman custom and religion. Saturnalia was one of the popular Roman pagan festival celebrating harvest and honouring the return of Sun God-Saturn, this festival was marked with exchange of gifts, decorating trees and merry making. Ascetic leaders among the Christian minority considered Saturnalia as a rowdy time and the first Christmas celebration was in reaction to the ancient Roman pagan. It was not until 5th century AD that made Christmas as an official festival honouring Christ throughout the Roman empire.

During the pagan festival, trees were decorated with small pieces of metal and fruits signifying fertility, life and reproduction. Variety of foods were prepared and kept underneath the tree as offerings. Christmas trees were sold in local markets of Alsace in 1531. During the middle ages, feast of Adam and Eve was held on December 24th, in which an evergreen, the Paradise tree was decorated with apples. Prince Albert carried the Christmas tree custom from Germany to Britain in 1841. In 1851, a Cleveland minister put up the first American Christmas tree.

The evergreen Christmas tree with its stretched bough towards heaven, symbolizes Christs immaculate sacrifice. The candles or lights on the tree reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world.

Every year since 1947, the city of Westminster, England has received a Christmas tree from Oslo as expression of goodwill and gratitude to help Norway during World War II.

Christmas trees have been sold commercially in the United States since 1850.The best selling trees are Scotch pine, Douglas fir, Noble fir, Fraser fir, Virginia pine, Balsam fir and white pine. Cherry and Hawthorns were used as Christmas tree in the past.

For millions of people across the world, Christmas is incomplete without a real Christmas tree. Selling directly to the consumer has become a major market for Christmas tree farms. They offer consumers to choose their own tree, while still growing in the farm. More than 2000 trees are planted per acre and it takes 6-7 years of fighting drastic climatic conditions to get a six-seven feet tall, mature tree waiting to be harvested. In 2001, $360 million were generated with sales of Christmas trees in United States.

In the UK, The British Christmas Tree Growers Association represents the interest of people who grow Christmas trees in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Growing Christmas tree provides a habitat for animals and reduces pollution by removing dust and pollen from the air. Also, recycled trees are used to make soil and sand erosion, placed in water bodies for fish shelter. Thus, Christmas trees not only signify the relevance of religion in our lives, but also replenishes the lost environmental resources.

There are various Christmas Tree Events held worldwide to welcome the Advent and Nativity season. Christkindlmarket is one such event, it is a four week open-air market modeled on famous Nuremberg Christian market dating to 1545. The market offers rare shopping opportunity, shoppers can but traditional Bavarian glass blowing, hand carved wood and delicacies and the air is filled with German-American folk music.

Annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony is yet another way to welcome the festivity. An 85 foot Holiday Tree comprising of over 100 small Balsam Fir trees glows with thousand of lights and several hundred ornaments in the city of Chicago. With Santa Claus completing the picture of authentic German holiday marketplace. Families are welcome to click photographs or purchase photo memento of the occasion.

When it comes to preference of decorating a Christmas tree, the Europeans prefer naturally- grown, open, unsheared trees, while the Americans prefer harvested close-tree shapes, with little space to hang ornaments. Earlier Christmas trees were harvested from forests, but now they are commercially grown. Artificial trees are a buyers delight with changing times.

The first artificial tree was manufactured in Germany, in the 19th century to prevent deforestation. These were made from green dyed goose feathers wound onto stick, drilled into a larger one, similar to the tree branches. Since the tree was made from goose feathers, it was named as Feather Tree. Americans adopted the concept in 1913 and was published in the catalog of Sears, Roebuck and Company. Modern trees, Designer trees and Outdoor trees queued up in the artificial tree segment.

The metallic trees of 1950s and 1960s were aluminum coated paper trees and they were lit by a spotlight, instead of candles or electric lights, as they were highly flammable. Their usage as decoration pieces on tables served a designer purpose.

Since late 1990s, development in technology has given birth to indoor artificial trees, pre-strung with lights. With a colour wheel and lights rotating in the tree base, these radiate vibrant colours shimmering across the tree. Other gimmicks include small talking or singing trees and trees which blow snow over themselves.

Environmentalists often debate whether real trees are better for environment than artificial ones. Artificial trees are made of PVC, a toxic material which is stabilized with lead. Warning signs are printed on trees to inform people about the health hazards caused on inhaling dust or eating the leaves from these trees. Artificial trees can be used for many years, however they cannot be re-cycled and dumped as toxic waste under the ground.

Real trees on other hand are eco-friendly, they absorb toxic gases like carbon-di-oxide, and reduces pollution in the atmosphere. Also they are used as mulch to modify the effects of local climate and prevent soil erosion. Live trees are grown as a crop and replanted in rotation post harvest, they provide habitat for wildlife as well. However, the excess use of pesticides unbalances the habitat. Therefore, an alternative method welcomed by the farmers are organically grown Christmas trees which are available in the market along with other crops.

Whether you choose a cut or growing tree to enjoy this holiday season, I believe that a sensible environmentalist would opt for renewable over non- renewable every time.

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!

How richly God has decked thee!

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!

How richly God has decked thee!

Thou bidst us true and faithful be,

And trust in God unchangingly.

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!

How richly God has decked thee! !"