Let's enter the enchanting world of Christmas traditions, where the iconic evergreen conifer transforms into a canvas of festive magic.
The classic Christmas tree, bedecked with twinkling lights and an array of ornaments, has long been a symbol of holiday cheer and tradition. Beyond the usual traditional evergreens, you will find the unique twists and turns that this beloved tradition takes, from the crimson blooms of the New Zealand Pohutukawa tree to a dazzling creation made entirely of bubble wrap in this article.
Join me on a journey through time and across continents as we explore the rich history and imaginative expressions of the Christmas tree tradition, from its roots in 16th-century Germany to the vibrant and eclectic Trees at the Meteor show by artists in Hamilton, New Zealand.
Whether steeped in cultural symbolism or crafted with inventive flair, each tree tells a story of joy, creativity, and the universal spirit of the holiday season.
The classic Christmas tree, adorned with festive decorations, is an iconic symbol of the holiday season. Traditionally, these trees are evergreen conifers, often grown on specialized Christmas tree farms dedicated to providing the perfect centrepiece for yuletide celebrations. The ritual of decorating the Christmas tree has become a cherished pre-Christmas tradition in many homes, including mine, marking the beginning of the holiday spirit.
While Christmas trees are commonly embellished with twinkling lights, the original practice involved using candles for illumination. The ornaments, garlands, and tinsel that deck the branches add a touch of personal flair to each tree. Many enthusiasts coordinate colours, creating visually appealing and harmonious displays. A key feature of many Christmas trees is the angel or star gracing its top, symbolizing something much more than just a decorative nature with the host of angels or the Star of Bethlehem from the Nativity being the original reason.
The history of Christmas trees is a captivating journey that traces its roots back to 16th-century Germany, where the tradition of adorning evergreen trees became entwined with the celebration of Christmas. However, this enchanting custom extends beyond that pivotal moment, deepening into the past with origins interwoven with ancient traditions and beliefs.
The core reason for embracing Christmas trees is their symbolic representation of everlasting life—a poignant metaphor during a season commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. The evergreen nature of these trees serves as a powerful reminder of life's continuity, even in the depths of winter.
While the tradition itself is all about festive joy and has spiritual significance for many, the broader history of Christmas has not always been without controversy. Over the centuries, the holiday has undergone transformative changes, assimilating diverse cultural elements.
Certain aspects of Christmas harbour a complex past, with historical practices significantly differing from the modern-day celebrations. It's important to note that this historical evolution isn't necessarily a "dark" history but rather an acknowledgment that the holiday has continually adapted to changing cultural and societal norms.
An intriguing facet of Christmas is its assimilation of pagan winter solstice celebrations. The timing of Christmas, observed on December 25th, aligns with ancient solstice festivals that marked the sun's rebirth. As Christianity spread, these pagan festivities were deliberately incorporated into the Christmas tradition, emphasising the symbolic connection between the birth of Christ and the renewal of light.
This historical layer adds depth to the holiday, illustrating how Christmas has absorbed and repurposed elements from diverse cultural practices over time. The amalgamation of traditions showcases the dynamic nature of Christmas. Moreover, this celebration transcends cultural boundaries and continues to evolve while maintaining its festive spirit.
In New Zealand, the Pohutukawa tree, with its vibrant crimson flowers, has become an integral part of the Kiwi Christmas tradition. Blooming around Christmas, the Pohutukawa is a symbol that resonates with New Zealanders at home and abroad, often depicted in greeting cards, poems, and songs.
In the city of Hamilton, New Zealand, an extraordinary Christmas tree tradition has taken centre stage with a competition to create unique and exciting trees each year for a festive celebration. My very own version, crafted from an abundance of bubble wrap, was a unique creation that was part of this competition called Trees at the Meteor.
While my unique bubble wrap tree, which was entered in the recycling section, may not have clinched a victory, the tree has found a second life as a stunning holiday centrepiece that I loved bringing out every year for a while anyway. Its bubble wrap construction not only ensures the safety of ornaments from my mischievous feline but also adds a captivating glow when covered with flashing fairy lights.
The Trees at the Meteor event, an annual Christmas tradition, transforms Hamilton into a virtual forest of creatively decorated trees. Participants showcase their ingenuity through themes ranging from Avante-Garde to Recycled, Kiwiana and Gadgetrees. The exhibition brings joy and amusement to all who visit, with entrants being provided fairy lights to illuminate their imaginative creations.
Whether you're an observer or eager to join the festive competition, there's still time to participate and brighten up the holiday season. Visit www.treesatmeteor.co.nz to explore the enchanting world of Trees at the Meteor, featuring this year's entries and past highlights.
As we celebrate the diverse ways people around the world embrace the Christmas tree tradition, from the classic evergreens to inventive creations like my bubble wrap masterpiece, it becomes clear that the season's magic knows no bounds.
Main image is a colouring page from Collette's range of Colouring books, you can find on Amazon
Posted: Tuesday 1 December 2009