By Helen Roberts
Nothing quite captures the Christmas mood more than seeing a beautifully decorated Christmas tree. Whether you choose to adorn one yourself or not, the Christmas tree is decorated and celebrated in many different countries and different nations have their own favourite species.
|The foliage of the Balsam Fir.
Photo by Robert H. Mohlenbrock @ USDA-NRCS
I am particularly picky about the species of tree our family have and the overall shape of the tree. This fussiness stems from spending time living in Canada; high standards were set when our first Christmas tree was a wonderfully large and fragrant Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea), with its dark green, long lasting foliage. This tree is a very popular species used in North America for Christmas, and on our return to England I tried to find a nursery to buy a Balsam Fir for Christmas without luck. I did some research and eventually found a similar species, but also found out some interesting information about our celebrated Christmas tree.
Where does the tradition of the Christmas tree come from?
|A Christmas tree. Photo by Malene Thyssen.
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –
Most people know that in 1840 Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, brought a Christmas tree over from Germany and put it in Windsor Castle. The decorated tree, surrounded by the royal family, appeared in newspaper illustrations and from then on the tradition of the Christmas tree began in Great Britain. The Victorian tree was decorated with toys, gifts, candles, sweets and cakes hung by ribbons.
|A Christmas pyramid from approximately
1830. Picture by Klaaschwotzer,
via Wikimedia Commons.
The modern Christmas tree originated in Germany where the tree was decorated with apples to represent the Garden of Eden on December 24th (the religious feast day of Adam and Eve). It was also decorated with wafers (to symbolise the host) but later became cookies and candles, to represent Christ. The Christmas pyramid, a structure made from pieces of wood and decorated with figurines, evergreens and candles was also used in addition to the Christmas tree. It was the merging of these two structures in the 16th century that lead to the tradition of the modern Christmas tree.
unities by the 18th century and was a well-established tradition by the next century.
What are the most common species of Christmas tree in the UK?
|Blue spruce foliage.
Photo by Nickolas Titkov from Moscow, Russian Federation
It is the Norway Spruce (Picea abies), however, that most people in England consider to be the traditional Christmas tree (it is the one I always relate with my childhood Christmases’). It has a lovely forest smell, though it loses its needles more readily than the firs. Other common spruce species include Blue Spruce (Picea pungens glauca), with its vibrant blue tinge and strong citrus scent (although it is very prickly), and the Serbian Spruce (Picea omorika), which is very popular in central Europe. It has a graceful conical shape with dark green colouring, soft needles and a pleasant fragrance.