Friday, December 10, 2004

The German religious reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546) is often credited with starting the Christmas tree custom, but the first appearance of a Tannenbaum was recorded in Germany many years after Luther's death. But it is most likely that the custom dates back to at least around 1550, since the first of several "Tannenbaum" ballads was circulating in print at that time. Shortly after the establishment of the Christmas tree in German homes, came the advent of the Bride's Tree.

According to an old German tradition, a couple's Christmas tree should include twelve ornaments to ensure happiness in their life journey together. The twelve ornaments and what they symbolize are:

  • A Fish represents Christ's blessing, as well as fertility.
  • A Teapot represents hospitality.A Bird symbolizes joy, happiness, and the Holy Spirit. If the bird is in a nest then it represents confidence in the cottage or home.
  • An Angel or Church is a symbol of God's guidance.
  • A Rabbit reflects hope and peace with nature.
  • A Fruit Basket symbolizes generosity and plenty.
  • A Heart is a symbol of true love and love in the home.
  • A Pine Cone represents fruitfulness, eternity, motherhood, and fertility.
  • A Flower Basket symbolizes good wishes or beauty in the home.
  • A Rose is a symbol of affection and of the Virgin Mary. A yellow rose symbolizes faithfulness in the marriage.
  • A House represents protection or family shelter.
  • A Santa is a symbol of goodwill, giving and sharing.

Additional suggestions for a couple's first Christmas tree include:

  • A glass Carrot represents good luck in the kitchen.
  • A Star symbolizes guidance.
  • A Boat is representative of a couple sailing across the waters of life, both rough and smooth.
  • Colored balls symbolize the diversity of our world.
  • Paper chains or garlands show that we're all bound together
  • Lights show how the love of God is reflected in a couple's love for one another.
  • The glass Pickle is supposed to be the last ornament hung on the tree - and hidden by parents. The child who discovered the pickle ornament would receive a special gift from St. Nicholas for being so observant.
  • A Grape is a symbol of friendship or of sharing a glass of wine.
  • A Bell represents joy and merriment.

As the second week of Advent comes to a close, perhaps it is wise for each of us to consider placing these twelve ornaments on our tree... or, more importantly, placing the twelve elements symbolized by the ornaments in the center of our life and in our household. And not only during the holiday season but throughout every day of every year.

Here's hoping your season is filled with rabbits, fruit baskets, teapots and and pine cones... as well as an open heart for all that Life brings.

hoedl's haven
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