Re: [orthodox-synod] Christmas Trees. 1510? Don't think so. Maybe 1535.
- In a message dated 10/29/2006 9:46:12 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,
Besides, the Christmas Tree as a centerpiece of worldwide Nativity
festivities is itself a relatively recent phenomenon. It's really an
old German custom: legend has it that the fir tree was used in early
times, much like St. Patrick's shamrock, to explain and symbolize the
Trinity. Some 500-600 years ago the custom took hold in Germanic
areas (though legend also has it the very first decorated "Christmas
tree" was erected in Riga, Latvia, in 1510).
The decorated fir in branch form shows up throughout Germanic history as a
symbol of hope and rebirth. The direct association with Christmas is by
legend credited to Luther, and does appear in his writings (one carol) and letters
to Katarina von Bora [after 1535]. The Riga legend might turn out to be a
red herring, but even if 100% true, there are problems with it. Riga as a
100% German city in 1510, and a leading member of the Hansa. Riga was founded
by Germans to be a trading post with the Balts [specifically, the Livs], and
became the locus of the Livonian Brothers of the Sword. It remained Catholic
until 1522, at which time the Order converted to secular status and accepted
the Reformation. As such, the merchants guild would have consisted of German
patricians, and fairly cosmopolitan, not folks with pagan leanings (in
fairness, this is not from the message above, but from the various web sites
discussing the Riga legend. The other problem with many variants of the Riga
legend is that Luther was never in Riga (that one from the Chamber of Commerce in
Riga, which is trying to appropriate a German Lutheran tradition as a
Latvian unifying custom.
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