The Christmas tree is a mandala, a bundle of symbols showing what creation has to offer: light and the movement of angels, the gifts of orchard and field, forest and sea, all topped off by the star that pointed to the end of the journey, the place of peace.

During Advent in the XIth century, scenes called mysteries, including one about Paradise, were very popular. A tree decorated with red apples symbolized the tree of Paradise. During the XVth century, the faithful began to put up trees in their own houses on December 24, the feast day of Adam and Eve.

However, the first Christmas tree as we know it, but without lights still, appeared in Alsace in 1521. It was introduced in France by the Princess Hélène de Mecklembourg, who brought one to Paris after her marriage to the Duke of Orleans. In the XVIIIth century, the custom of decorating a Christmas tree was well established in Germany, France and Austria.

In 1841, Prince Albert (originally from Germany), husband of Queen Victoria, set up a Christmas tree at Windsor Castle in England. From the royal court, the custom of Christmas trees spread quickly to the middle class and then to working people. For Victorians, a good Christmas tree had to be six branches tall and be placed on a table covered with a white damask tablecloth. It was decorated with garlands, candies and paper flowers.

The Christmas tree was introduced to Canada around the end of the XVIIIth century even before it became a common practice in England. The various ornaments with which it was decorated were first made at home before being commercially produced. In the middle of the XVIIth century, Christmas trees were illuminated with little candles. These were replaced at the beginning of the XXth century by electric bulbs. Other variations like outdoor and artificial Christmas trees as appeared around the beginning of the XXth century.

CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network
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