Why do we celebrate Christmas on December 25 and when did our holiday tradition of the Christmas tree begin? By Robert A. Selig
Many years ago, as a child growing up in Germany, that question never arose. The Christmas season began with Advent, usually on the first Sunday in December, and the opening of the first window in the Advent Kalendar. From there the season progressed … ever so slowly … to Heilige Abend (Christmas Eve), when the last window in the calendar was opened, but only by those of us who had been patient enough to wait three weeks for the biggest treat the calendar had to offer. St. Nikolaustag, December 6, was thrown in for good measure to remind little girls and boys that they needed to be on their best behavior if they expected the Christkind to leave any presents for them under the Weihnachtsbaum (Christmas Tree). There was no Santa Claus on a sled drawn by Rudolph and his buddies who came down the chimney bringing presents. While you were away in church for Christmas Eve service, the Christkind miraculously visited your home bringing a decorated tree and presents. Upon your return home the Weihnachtsbaum stood in the best room of the house, its candles burning brightly. And then you started to open presents … why wait until the next morning?!
Those days are long gone, not only because I am (very much) older now, but also because cuddly and lovable Santa Claus replaced the invisible Christkind as the bringer of gifts and commercial interests captured the spirit of Christmas. Labor Day has barely gone by before merry tunes start raining down on poor shoppers and distraught store attendants alike. By Thanksgiving at the latest there are Christmas trees everywhere as some stores parade veritable forests of them, in green or white, full of imaginary snow, and bowed down with every imaginable decoration. There seems to be no limit to materials, themes, sizes, shapes, or colors. There is hardly a historic house, museum gift-shop, or organization that does not offer its own ornament for sale with a different motif each year to ensure you add to your collection.