Music playing is
"Oh, Christmas Tree!"
The German version still sung today, 'O Tannenbaum',
was written by Ernst Anschütz of Leipzig in 1824
Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree,
Your boughs can teach a lesson.
Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree,
Your boughs can teach a lesson.
That constant faith and hope sublime
Lend strength and comfort through all time.
Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree,
Your boughs can teach a lesson.
Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree,
How steadfast are your branches!
Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree,
How steadfast are your branches!
Your boughs are green in summer's clime
And through the snows of wintertime.
Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree,
How steadfast are your branches!
Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree,
What happiness befalls me?
Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree,
What happiness befalls me?
When off at joyous Christmastime
Your form inspires my song and rhyme.
Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree,
What happiness befalls me ?
Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we know it today.  Decorating
evergreen trees had always been a part of the
German winter solstice tradition.  It is a widely held
belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree.
Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of
stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main
room and wired its branches with lighted candles.

The first "Christmas trees" explicitly
decorated and named after the Christian holiday, appeared in
Strasbourg, in Alsace in the beginning of the 17th century.  Some built Christmas pyramids of wood
and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce.  After 1750, Christmas trees
began showing up in other parts of Germany, and even more so after 1771, when Johann Wolfgang
von Goethe visited Strasbourg and promptly included a Christmas tree is his novel, The Suffering of
Young Werther.  

Most 19th-century Americans found Christmas trees an
oddity and considered the tree a pagan
symbol
, referring back to ancient Egyptian and early Roman practices of decorating with evergreen
boughs.  Long before the advent of Christianity, plants and trees that remained green all year had a
special meaning for people in the winter. Just as people today decorate their homes during the festive
season with pine, spruce, and fir trees, ancient peoples hung evergreen boughs over their doors and
windows. In many countries it was believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil
spirits, and illness.  

The first record of a Christmas tree being on display was in the 1830s by the German settlers of
Pennsylvania, although trees had been a tradition in many German homes much earlier.

In 1846, the popular royals, Queen Victoria and her German Prince, Albert,
revitalized the tree
tradition
, and what was done at court immediately became fashionable—not only in Britain, but with
fashion-conscious East Coast American Society.  In 1848, the first American newspaper carried a
picture of a Christmas tree and the custom spread to nearly every home in just a few years.  By the
1890s Christmas ornaments were arriving from Germany and Christmas tree popularity was on the rise
around the U.S.  
The traditional colors of Christmas are green and red. Green represents the
continuance of life through the winter and the Christian belief in eternal life
through Christ. Red symbolizes the blood that Jesus shed at His Crucifixion.
Christmas decorations that feature these colors include the Christmas wreath, the
Christmas tree, holly, and mistletoe.
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Holly is an evergreen tree with sharply pointed, glossy leaves, a white blossom, and red berries. The
use of holly as a
symbolic winter decoration goes back in history to the Celtic peoples of Northern
Europe, who decorated their homes with it during the time of the winter solstice, or Yule.

The early Christian Church retained many of the Celtic, as well as Roman traditions to help
celebrate
the birth of Christ
.  The needlelike points of the leaves were thought to resemble the crown of thorns
that Jesus wore when He was crucified. The white blossom represented His purity, and the red berries
symbolized the drops of blood He shed.
Mistletoe is an evergreen plant with dark leaves and shiny white berries.  Ancient Celtic priests
considered the plant sacred and gave people sprigs of it to
use as charms. It was said to have the
ability to heal wounds and increase fertility.  Celts hung mistletoe in their homes in order to bring
themselves good luck and ward off evil spirits.

The custom of decorating homes with mistletoe probably came from its use as a ceremonial plant by
early Europeans.  During holidays in the Victorian era, the English would hang sprigs of mistletoe from
ceilings and in doorways. If someone was found standing under the mistletoe,
they would be kissed
by someone else in the room, behavior not usually demonstrated in Victorian society.  

Some traditions state that a man should pluck a berry from the mistletoe when ever he kisses a woman
under it's branches. When the berries are gone - no more kisses! In some places, they even burn the
Christmas mistletoe on the twelfth day of Christmas; otherwise they believe that all who kissed under it
will never marry!
In 1828, the American minister to Mexico, Joel R. Poinsett, brought a red and green plant from
Mexico
to America. As its coloring seemed perfect for the new holiday, the plants, which were called
poinsettias after Poinsett, began appearing in greenhouses as early as 1830. In 1870, New York
stores began to sell them at Christmas. By 1900, they were a universal symbol of the holiday.
In ancient Greece a laurel wreath was awarded to victors in sporting events. The Romans adopted
this custom, hanging the wreaths outside their homes to brag of their victory. Wreaths were also used
in Rome much as we use house numbers. Everyone would have their own distinctive wreath hanging
on the door or outside the house to identify their family.

Much symbolism may be attached to the Christmas wreath. It is usually in the shape of a circle
which represents the eternal nature of God's love. Evergreens are used to represent immortality.