Today, the tradition of having a decorated Christmas tree in one's home is no longer limited to Christianity. Millions of people around the world, belonging to different faiths and cultures, have embraced the practice to mark the festivities of December. Cities across the globe boast impressive public Christmas trees that get grander with each year. The Christmas tree, as we know it today, is a fairly recent addition to Christmas celebrations, the origins of which trace back to 16th-century Germany.
With 'lit' pictures of 2018's best Christmas trees from around the world, LF presents interesting trivia of the Christmas tree's evolution. If you happen to be in one of these cities, the magnificent Christmas decorations are bound to intoxicate you with cheer. Meanwhile, for those of us who aren't on holiday, these visual treats will be enough to soak in the Christmas spirit.
1) The United States, New York, Rockefeller Center
Dating back to 1933, the Christmas tree at New York City's Rockefeller Center is perhaps one of the most famous in the world. In 2018, it stands at 72 feet adorned by a 9.4-inch star topper made of Swarovski crystals, reports the Center's official website.
Did You Know: The use of evergreens for winter festivals was long prevalent before Christianity. Similar customs have been found in the practices of ancient Egyptians, Chinese, Hebrews, Pagans and early Romans. However, the practice of bringing home a tree and decorating it for Christmas has its origins in 16th-century western Germany, as do most other Christmas traditions.
2) The United States, Florida, West Palm Beach
The beach state boasts a 35-foot Christmas tree, weighing 700 ton, sculpted out of sand in 2018. Keeping with the theme, the decorations include mermaids, pufferfish and other sea creatures. Named West Palm’s Sandi Tree, it will be illuminated with choreographed light and music shows every evening until Christmas.
DYK: Several beliefs explain how the Christmas tree tradition came to be. According to one, cited by Helen Haidle in Christmas Legends to Remember, Martin Luther, a Protestant Christian reformer, was the first to bring home a tree and decorate it with lit candles to celebrate Christmas. In Advent and Christmas, Greg Dues suggests it could be the combination of two traditions. The popular theory credits "tree of paradise", a prop from medieval European plays, as the inspiration behind the Christmas tree, and "a festival of lights from pre-Christian times", writes Dues.
3) France, Paris, Galeries Lafayette
With a ‘Dream Factory’ theme, the 2018 Christmas tree at Galeries Lafayette, French luxury department store chain, promises to transport you to a magical world. Sponsored by luxury watchmaker, Piaget, the wonder in green and gold glitter features illuminated characters, with a light show every 30 minutes!
DYK: By the 18th century, the Christmas tree tradition had become widespread among German Protestants. The practice became so closely identified with Protestant Christianity that "German Catholics initially wanted nothing to do with it," writes John Dunphy in From Christmas to Twelfth Night in Southern Illinois. "Their resistance endured until the 19th century when Christmas trees finally found their way into Catholic homes," adds Dunphy.
4) France, Strasbourg, Place Kléber
The capital of Christmas, aka Strasbourg, boasts an almost 100-foot tall Christmas tree in the heart of the city in 2018. A sight to behold, the fir tree has been decorated with 7 kms of fairy lights, 40 vast baubles, golden stars, 180 angels, candles and 200 twinkling bouquets!
DYK: While the Christmas tree had begun dissolving religious and regional boundaries in the 19th century, it had yet to find a way into common homes. "The Christmas tree spread out in German society from the top down. It moved from elite households to the broader social strata," writes Joe Perry in Christmas in Germany: A Cultural History.
5) Lithuania, Vilnius, Cathedral Square
The city’s 2017 Christmas tree was selected as one of the 15 most beautiful christmas trees in the world by Conde Nast Traveller. Outdoing itself, the city’s 88-foot tall metal Christmas tree in 2018 resembles a clock when viewed from above and is surrounded by 12 glowing tables serving as numerals.
DYK: The Christmas tree tradition became so popular among nobility in the early 19th century that "it spread to royal courts across Europe," reported ABC. It was the British royal family that played a significant role in not only taking the Christmas tree to every home in Britain but the USA as well. ABC reports, "A drawing of the royal family celebrating Christmas around a decorated tree in Windsor Castle was published by the Illustrated London News in 1848. Soon every British home had a tree." Two years later, the image found its way to America. "It became the first widely circulated picture of a decorated evergreen Christmas tree in the US," states ABC.
6) Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon
At a whopping 230 feet, Rio de Janeiro once again boasts the world’s largest floating Christmas tree in 2018. An iconic symbol, 9,00,000 LED bulbs adorn the city’s metal tree which is making a comeback after 3 years. In 2015, a heavy snowstorm damaged the tree days before it could be illuminated.
DYK: Like the Christmas tree tradition, objects used to decorate the tree evolved over the years. Some of the earliest decorations included "roses made of coloured paper, apples, wafers, tinsel and sweetmeats," says Perry. The first tree at the Windsor Castle, in 1800, was decorated with "bunches of sweetmeats, almonds, and raisins in papers, fruits and toys, most tastefully arranged, and the whole illuminated by small wax candles," wrote a biographer, states the Royal Windsor website.
7) Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Pavilion
A 20-foot tall Mickey Mouse sculpture welcomes visitors to the shopping centre’s Christmas tree in 2018, which celebrates Mickey Mouse’s 90th birthday. It is surrounded by 1,000 Mickey Mouse figurines designed by Malaysian fans of the Disney character.
DYK: The eight-pointed star atop a tree, which represents the Star of Bethlehem, "became a popular manufactured ornament around the 1840s," writes DeeAnn Mandryk in Canadian Christmas Traditions.
8) Italy, Gubbio, Monte Ingino
Instead of a regular Christmas tree, you will find a 731-meter high and 450-meter wide lighting illumination on the slopes of Monte Ingino. Made with almost 8.5 kilometers of electric cable and 3,000 multi-coloured lights, it is known as the ‘biggest Christmas tree in the world’. In 2014, the lights were remotely switched on by the Pope using a tablet and in 2017, they were lit by an astronaut from space!
DYK: With the advent of electrification, candles were soon replaced by lights. An associate of Thomas Edison was the first to install a Christmas tree lit with electric bulbs in 1882 in New York, states the Royal Windsor website. By 1901, Edison's company had introduced the first commercially produced Christmas tree lamps.
9) Japan, Osaka, Universal Studios
The theme park has created a buzz with its Universal Illusion Tree in 2018, setting the Guinness World Record for most lights (5,80,806!) on an artificial Christmas tree. The multi-coloured changing lights put up a show, making the conical structure look even grander.
DYK: Until the early 1900s, the Christmas tree was mostly a private tradition followed by families in their homes. According to the Royal Windsor website, the first public Christmas tree "was instituted by the town of Pasadena, California, where an illuminated tree has been set up annually since 1909." It didn't take much time for the trend of public Christmas trees to catch on. Soon, cities, towns and department stores were installing Christmas trees outdoors.
10) South Africa, Cape Town, V&A Waterfront
The Moët & Chandon Golden Tree, installed by the French fine winery, is a four-storey structure made of 1,800 recycled champagne bottles. Wrapped in a shimmering gold ribbon made of 2,000 discs, it is brought alive by a musical light show illuminated by 230 meters of LED lights.
DYK: Owing to its German origins, the Christmas tree's popularity hit a setback after World War I due to widespread anti-German sentiment, reported The Times London in 1918, however, the effect was short-lived. By the mid-1920s, the Christmas tree tradition was thriving across classes.
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