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  Wikipedia: Christmas tree

Wikipedia: Christmas tree
Christmas tree
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

One of the most popular traditions associated with the celebration of Christmas, the Christmas tree is normally an evergreen coniferous tree that is brought in the house or used in the open and is decorated with lights and colourful ornaments during the days preceding and immediately following Christmas. The tradition is most widely observed in the more northern parts of the Northern Hemisphere (north of about 45N latitude), where Christmas falls at a time when daylight hours are very short, and temperatures often below freezing (0C) with snow covering the ground. This is a continuance of the ancient pagan idea that the evergreen tree represents a celebration of the renewal of life at a time of death, darkness and cold at the winter solstice. A common decoration is a "Christmas ball", a reflecting sphere of thin metal-coated glass, working as a reducing wide-angle mirror.

Like many other Christmas traditions, the universally-popular Christmas tree is derived from a fusion of Christian ideas with older pagan traditions. The custom originated in Germany. According to one legend, Saint Boniface attempted to introduce the idea of trinity to the pagan tribes using the Cone-shaped evergreen trees because of their triangular appearance. The tradition of hanging decorations (representing fruit or gifts) on the trees is very old, with some early reports coming from Germany's upper Rhine region, but the tradition of attaching candles is attributed to Martin Luther. A related tradition was hanging evergreen branches throughout the home. With time, these evergreen branches gave way to garlands, vines and wreaths.

However, the Germanic tribes celebrated the Yule tradition by sacrificing male animals, and slaves, by suspending them on the branches of trees. In Scandinavia the Viking kings sacrificed nine males of each species at the sacred groves. Poor people hanged apples and buns and other small sacrifices on branches. It is likely that the Christmas tree is a continuation of this tradition (cf. the maypole of the summer solstice).

European tradition prefers the open aspect of naturally grown, unsheared trees (as in the photo, right), while in North America there is a preference for close-sheared trees with denser foliage, but less space to hang decorations. The shearing also damages the highly attractive symmetry of natural trees. In the past, Christmas trees were often harvested from wild forests, but now almost all are commercially grown on tree farms. Artificial Christmas trees, made of metal and plastic, are also widely used.

The best species for use are species of Abies, which have the major benefit of not shedding the needles when they dry out, but species in other genera are also used. Commonly used species in Northern Europe (including Britain) are:
Nordmann fir Abies nordmanniana (as in the photo)
Noble fir Abies procera
Norway spruce Picea abies (the original species)
Scots pine Pinus sylvestris
and in North America:
Balsam fir Abies balsamea
Fraser fir Abies fraseri
Noble fir Abies procera
Douglas-fir Pseudotsuga menziesii
Scots pine Pinus sylvestris
several other species are used to a lesser extent.

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 
Modified by Geona