© The Financial Times Ltd 2013 FT and 'Financial Times' are trademarks of The Financial Times Ltd.
December 14, 2012 5:12 pm
Inventing the Christmas Tree, by Bernd Brunner, translated by Benjamin A Smith, Yale University Press, RRP£12.99, 96 pages
The decorated tree is now a standard part of most Christmas festivities. But where did the tradition originate? And why do we hang baubles and tinsel on a fir brought into our homes?
Bernd Brunner, a German writer, has gone in search of some answers in this brief, beautifully illustrated, potted history of the Christmas tree. He traces its origins to a handful of European traditions from the Middle Ages. Some early mentions of Christmas trees place the first in Tallinn, Estonia in 1441 or Freiburg, Germany in 1419 when a tree was decorated with apples and gingerbread. The trend must have been prevalent in late 15th-century Strasbourg; the cutting of pine branches at New Year was forbidden.
He charts the development of lights (did Martin Luther place the first candle on a tree?) and decorations: tinsel, it turns out, was inspired by bundles of wire left over from metalwork and was known colloquially in German as “silver-plated sauerkraut”. A charming gift book that should find a place under many a tree this year.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2013. You may share using our article tools.
Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.