December Painting of the Month (2)

The traditional Christmas tree and where did it come from is my second theme this month. It sort of begs the question what is ‘traditional’ as the origins of the tree are lost in myth. What does seem common practice is the decorating of houses and churches all over Europe with evergreen decoration during the short dark days at the end of December.

Victoria and Albert, Christmas, Christmas Tree, Great Britain, royal engraving
Victoria and Albert’ Family Christmas, an engraving of 1840

Christian traditions were more often than not adopted pagan in origin. So the ‘tradition’ of decorating churches in advent was surely in place long ago in history. The colours of flowers had gone with the autumn frosts but evergreen leaves were abundant and easy to find.

The idea of decorating a small complete tree seems to come from the Baltic countries or Germany in the 16th century, initially being decorated with edible treats. Candles appeared later to illuminate the tree, replaced with modern electric lights, baubles, tinsel and all.

Albert chevalier Tayler, the Christmas tree, oil painting, 1911
Albert Chevalier Tayler, The Christmas Tree, oil on canvas, 1911, (private collection-image in public domain)

The Decorated tree as the centre of the family Christmas in Britain comes from the above engraving from around the 1840s of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their children. The idea quickly spread and Pre-Raphaelite and Impressionists all dabbled in Christmas scenes with trees as the focus.

Have you got the 1971 poet / songwriter yet?

“A very merry Christmas,

And a Happy New Year…”

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