Many of the ornaments we still use to decorate our houses at Christmas time date back to the beginning of Christianity. Christmas candles or tapers are one of the most eloquent examples. From the very beginning of Christianity, a large candle was lit on Christmas Eve symbolizing Christ, Light of the World. It was left to burn the whole night to mark the Nativity. This ancient custom still persists in several European countries, particularly in France, England, Ireland and Denmark. In Canada, even if we may have forgotten its meaning, many families still have a habit of lighting candles decorated with pine or fir branches during the "réveillon" or Christmas dinner.

The beautiful wreaths of fir boughs that we hang from our doors and windows come from a German tradition. On the first Sunday in Advent in Austria and in the south of Germany, each family braids a large wreath of fir branches and adds a red ribbon and pinecones.

Our habit of decorating houses for Christmas actually dates back to the second half of the XIXth century. Around 1860, Montreal merchants sold holly leaves and mistletoe balls to their wealthy customers as house decorations. Garlands woven with flowers were also made to hang on mirror frames, over doors and mantelpieces. Baskets of dried, wax or paper flowers decorated tables. Later, these would be replaced by poinsettias, introduced to North American by the American botanist Joel Robert Poinsett who discovered this plant in Mexico in 1825 when he was the American ambassador to that country.

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