Birthplace of the First Christmas Tree - it's a legend
 
 
first Christmas tree
503rd year anniversary
No one knows for certain who truly lays claim to the first Christmas tree ... but few dispute that it was in the area which is now Northern Europe.  
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History of the First Christmas Tree
 
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When searching for the historical beginning of the first Christmas tree, one must go very deep into the past. Just like Santa Claus one finds that the first Christmas tree was combination of many different facts, legends and customs. The first documented use of a tree in a winter Christmas celebration was in several locations in Northern Europe including Estonia, and Latvia, in the year 1510 according to documents from the Blackheads Fraternity chronicles and from various sources in Germany. It is not totally clear whether the birthplace of the Christmas Tree was in Tallinn or Riga. As the two Black's Fraternity were related, one might conclude that it happen in both cities in the same years,  more historical facts and information

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In all countries that have adopted the tree as part of their festive celebrations, it is traditional to place all of the Christmas presents around the base of the tree. 

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Christmas Traditions Around the World

Christmas is celebrated the world over, by almost everyone in it and in many different ways. Most cultures have similar themes and many Christmas traditions form part of the fun of the season for people who celebrate it. Many children leave Santa Claus a small treat before going to bed on Christmas Eve, which can be anything from cookies and milk, popular with US, Canada and a lesser extent the UK - who in the main tend to stick to sherry and a mince pie; Swedish children leave him rice pudding and Irish children leave him Guinness and Christmas pud.

What is left for Santa to put present in differs from culture to culture and sometimes family to family too. In the UK a stocking is traditionally hung on the fireplace or at the foot of a bedstead. In the US these are also popular, but are sometimes present bags. In Germany sacks are left out and in Italy and Portugal shoes are left out for presents, sometimes on windowsills and sometimes by the fireplace. However, in Venezuela, children leave out straw, which they wake to find replaced with presents. Some countries just place presents under the tree.

Presents are opened at different times depending upon where you are in the world. The most popular time tends to be Christmas morning amid excited children and often very tired parents. Italian children must wait until the 6th of January to open them as this marks the end of Epiphany, also Venezuela marks this tradition. Ethiopians exchange gifts in the 7th of January whereas some cultures exchange gifts at midnight on Christmas eve. Latvians believe Father Christmas brings presents on each of the 12 days of Christmas, which is a charming if potentially expensive tradition.

Music boxes have been around in some form since the 16th. century; but, it was the 19th century where the music box came into its current form and a became popular as a gift item. Celebrate this Christmas by giving a gift of Christmas music box collectibles to your loved ones.

Old Time Christmas Toys make Modern Day Christmas Presents

Nowadays, it seems like all anyone wants for Christmas is a new iPod or the latest e-reader. Christmas makes many people nostalgic for stringing popcorn in front of the fireplace, playing Jacks with cousins and opening gift boxes to find brand new toys. If you are someone who misses the way Christmas used to be, you may be pleased to find out that many classic Christmas toys are making a comeback in popularity.

One of the most classic Christmas toys is the Lego brick. Lego bricks were first created in the 1930s by a Danish carpentry company. Lego bricks have always been extremely popular since they provide a creative outlet for children. Lego products have expanded to include licensed characters, moving vehicles, a variety of shapes and colors and even a video game line. There are also several Lego themed amusement parks. Lego products still make wonderful gifts, just as they did decades ago.

Another gift that will never go out of date is the board game. As far as games go, video games are currently the norm. The concept of a board game will be new and exciting for your son or daughter. If you are going for nostalgia, you should consider purchasing Chutes and Ladders for your child. Originating in India as "Snakes and Ladders", this game has been around for centuries. As most of the game is based upon chance, Chutes and Ladders is better suited for younger children. Any board game of your choice will probably be appreciated by your child, since it is an opportunity for you to spend quality time together.

The pogo stick is another classic toy that never goes out of style. The pogo stick has been around since the nineteenth century. A variety of pogo sticks are currently available for purchase, from toy grade products to high performance sticks. Extreme pogo or trick pogo is a modern sport that centers on doing various tricks on the pogo stick and trying to jump as high as possible. If you purchase a pogo stick for your child, plan to spend your evenings recording their pogo tricks with a video camera so that they can post them on You Tube.

You should also think about purchasing a model train set this Christmas. Setting up a model train set is a timeless activity that will provide a classic Christmas memory and tradition for you and your child. Model trains have recently surged in popularity due to Thomas and Friends train sets. Thomas and Friends originated as a British children's television show in the mid-1980s. Since then, it has gained tremendous popularity in the US. The show still airs today, but it is animated using CGI rather than using physical models. Whether you choose to buy a Thomas and Friends model train set or a traditional, realistic version, your child will absolutely love it.

If you are convinced that your son or daughter will not be satisfied with the toys you grew up with, consider purchasing one nostalgic toy in addition to modern items. Look over a list of Top Christmas Boys Toys to figure out which modern toys are currently popular and supplement the contemporary gifts with the classic ones under the Christmas Tree.


The Christmas tree itself is synonymous with Christmas and most cultures have either a tree or some kind of festive greenery in the house. From sprayed branches, to foliage garlands and wreaths with candles in them, almost everyone has a symbol of the outside on the inside of their houses. The most common decorations for a tree are brightly colored glass or plastic baubles and tinsel. Candles were mainly replaced with fairy lights and bells are also popular choices. In the US popcorn garlands are sometimes used to adorn the tree and many countries will have an angel or a star on top of it. Opinions differ in whether an artificial Christmas tree or real tree is better and it is very common to use the same decorations year after year stowed away in boxes when not in use.

Other Christmas traditions include carol singing, traditionally in the UK carol singers knocked on a door and sang a Christmas carol. In exchange for this sometimes mince pies, or Christmas pudding was given to them or a shiny sixpence. It is now quite common for any money collected to be given to charity. Perhaps one of the most widespread traditions is the giving of Christmas cards, which come in many shapes, sizes and themes from cute animal pictures, shiny metallic, modern designs or religious themes. The one thing that every country does agree upon is that Christmas is a time for family and love of your fellow man.

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Riga Latvia was home of the first Christmas Tree

The location of this first recorded evergreen tree being used in a new year (Christmas) celebration was in Town Hall Square in Riga Latvia.

Located just meters or yards from the majestic Daugava River banks that was a major transportation route in the early Latvian development.

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The most splendid building in the Square is the House of Blackheads originally built in 1334, and now rebuilt in 1995 - 1999), which hosted a brotherhood of unmarried foreign merchants. The town hall building across the square was built later and rebuilt again in 2003.

Just in front of the House of Blackheads is placed domed plaque marking the site of the first New Years (Christmas) tree ceremony.

 
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To make the perfect Christmas Holiday, find gift information and holiday ideas to fit your budget. 

Giving business Christmas cards is a great way to bring holiday cheer to the office and you can display Christmas flower decorations in your home to add some additional color to your holiday decor. 

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Finland has Santa Claus. Russia has traditional handmade Christmas ornaments. Germany has Christmas markets. But arguably the most well-known of Christmas traditions -- decorating the Christmas tree -- may have its origin in Latvia. And it's all but unknown.

In the past, there have been stories about Martin Luther walking in the woods near Riga and he created the first Christmas Tree. But actually, the Riga tree reference and the Martin Luther Tree reference are two different occurrences.

Riga's First Christmas Tree
year 1510

The Martin Luther Tree was not the Riga Tree. In fact, little is known about the original Riga tree other than the fact that it was attended by men wearing black hats, and that after a ceremony, they burnt the tree.

This was a mixture of pagan and Christian custom, as were very many of the customs in Central/Northern Europe at that time.

The Martin Luther walk in the forest, believed to actually in Northern Germany and his lighted tree actually occurred several decades later.

In Latvia as in all of northern Europe, many other traditions that we now consider part of Christian worship were begun as a part of pagan activities where people were living their life as they had done for hundreds of years before.

The pagans of northern Europe celebrated the their own winter solstice, known as Yule. Yule was symbolic of the pagan Sun God, Mithras, being born, and was observed on the shortest day of the year. As the Sun God grew and matured, the days became longer and warmer.

It was customary to light a candle to encourage Mithras, and the sun, to reappear next year.

Huge Yule logs were burned in honor of the sun. The word Yule itself means wheel, the wheel being a pagan symbol for the sun. Mistletoe was considered a sacred plant, and the custom of kissing under the mistletoe began as a fertility ritual. Holly berries were thought to be a food of the gods.

The tree is the one symbol that unites almost all the northern European winter solstices. Live evergreen trees were often brought into homes during the harsh winters as a reminder to inhabitants that soon their crops would grow again.

In all societies, there were people who filled the roles of judge, doctor, diviner, mage, mystic, and clerical scholar - they were the religious intelligentsia of their culture.

These people often used the tree as a religious symbol, holding their sacred ceremonies while surrounding and worshipping huge trees and gathering around a large bonfire.

The legend says that the first Riga tree in 1510 was decorated with paper flowers and burnt on the bonfire after the ceremony; most probably, with a toast for the future, with steins held high!

According to Countess Maria Hubert von Staufer of the organization Christmas Archives International based in the England, "Riga is very important in the History of the Christmas Tree".  more historical information

Town Hall Square, developed in the middle of the 13th century, was initially a marketplace. Various celebrations, dances, games, tournaments, performances of mysteries, carnivals and parades took place there. The main function of the Square, though, was the administration of the city: the rules and orders of the Town Council were read out there.

Riga has come a long way from those early beginnings. Surviving the harsh Soviet occupation for 50 years, Latvia is once again one of Northern Europe's  most exciting places with great possibilities.

Latvians look like and consider themselves Nordics, evidenced through the strong cultural and religious influences gained over centuries during Germanic and Scandinavian colonization and settlement.

This highly literate society places strong emphasis upon education and as a result is poised to become an economic powerhouse in the expansion of the Baltic countries.

The plaque is engraved "The First New Years Tree in Riga in 1510", in eight languages.
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Lots to do and lots to see year around. Please come soon and enjoy the experience!
Mike Johnson, General Manager,  Patricia Tourist Office, Riga
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Clarification Note on History of First Christmas Tree

Note: There is some interesting intrigue in this history. According to the organization Christmas Archives International UK, "little is known about the original Riga tree other than the fact that it was attended by men wearing black hats, and that after a ceremony, they burn the tree. This was a mixture of pagan and Christian custom, as were very many of the customs in Central Europe." 

Apparently, there were actually two separate trees and the references below to the Martin Luther tree may actually be later than 1510 and maybe not in Riga. The Riga tree in 1510 is the first decorated tree and Martin Luther's decorated tree was in the early 16th century, according to the organization Christmas Archives International UK . 

"I hope that you do not mind me telling you this, but as Riga is very important in the History of the Christmas Tree, I thought it best to tell  you so that you will not have erroneous information", stated a representative of the organization.

 

 

The Baltic Times Newspaper

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Riga's First Christmas Tree - year 1510

 
Riga's 2001 Christmas Tree - Domes Square

 

 

 

 

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reprinted with permission of:

By Krista Taurins, Riga, Latvia - 20 December 2001, The Baltic Times

Finland has jolly old Saint Nick. Russia has hand-painted blown glass Christmas decorations. Germany has Christmas markets.

But in terms of home-grown Christmas legends and traditions, Latvia - believed to be the birthplace of the decorated Christmas tree - may have the most marketable one of all.

And it's barely doing a thing about it. 

According to the story; in 1510 Martin Luther, walking through a Riga forest, was touched by the beauty of the moonlight glistening on the branches of a fir tree, He chopped a little one down and brought it home for his children. He attached candles to its branches to recreate the moonlight and -viola -the world's first decorated Christmas tree was recorded in Riga. 

Search the Internet for "Christmas traditions" and "Latvia" and you'll be swamped with mentions of Riga as the Christmas tree's hometown. CNN even did a piece on it. Ask a local Latvian about it, however, and you are likely to be met with a puzzled expression. 

Christmas concept American businessman and long-time Riga resident J.C. Cole has been encouraging Western Christmas traditions in Riga for several years like the first ever lights on Jacob's Barracks a few years ago - when he first heard of Riga's Christmas tree heritage.

Cole first learned of the story in a book outlining the history of the Christmas tree. Then earlier this year he began developing the idea of holding a Christmas market in Riga Old Town's Dome Square. 

Part of the publicity for the market includes the story of the birth of the Christmas tree, but still the concept needs to become common knowledge among local Latvians. 

"This has got to be a Latvian thing," said Mike Johnson, an American working in the tourist industry in Riga, who is on the market's board of directors. 

Johnson hopes that hotels and local companies will latch on to the idea and give it a local base, adding the marketing scheme cannot be an American Chamber of Commerce initiative if it is to succeed. 

Local roots Australian-Latvian and Riga resident Aldis Tilens, who sells handmade souvenirs in Latvia and abroad, agreed that marketing the Christmas tree tradition needs to be a home-grown phenomenon. 

Tilens first heard the Christmas tree legend two years ago and was surprised to find out it was news to his local employees. 

He sees the Martin Luther story as something that could unite Latvians. 

"Latvians are still coming to terms with their identity," he said. "Is it an event, a cultural difference or geography that sets them apart? This is something that Latvians can latch on to that could be a source of pride," 

Ojars Kalnins, wlio heads the Latvian Institute; which works to promote Latvia abroad, said his organization could incorporate the Christmas tree story in materials it distributes about Latvia. 

As he put it, the vast majority of the world knows nothing about the country. 

A knowledgeable percentage may associate Latvia with the former Soviet Union. Others may have had a chance encounter through a mention in the world press - such as the story of Konrads Kalejs or the teenage girl who slapped a British royal in the face with red carnations recently.

The Christmas tree story is a reminder that Latvia was, and still is, a European country with a European culture, Kalnins said. And it is all in addition to the obvious benefits for business and tourism, of course. 

Finnish finesse Finland may be a prime example for Latvia on how to market holiday traditions. Finland has Lapland, which is known around the world as the home of Santa Claus. 
In 1984, the Finnish airline Finnair began to market itself as "The Official Carrier of Santa Claus." It involved a logo, which has evolved several times over the years, as well as decorations on aircraft, airports and offices. 

Finnair also produced yearly Finland Santa Claus package tour spanning not only Christmastime; but from early December to late January.

The airline even went so far as to hold promotional tours with Santa himself; as far away as the company's Asian destinations. 

Until 1997, Finnair cooperated with the Arctic Circle Santa Village near the Finnish city of Rovaniemi and the Santa Claus mail office, allowing passengers to send letters to Santa using an envelope sold on board. 

Finnair brand manager Kari Tiitola said the company had benefited from the man in red and his association with Finland. 

"The direct benefits are in terms of awareness and corporate image, (rather than) incremental revenue because this is difficult to measure," he wrote. "I'm afraid no figures are available, but (it is evident that) it was beneficial to us." 

About a year ago, the company saw the opportunity to combine its efforts w1th a comprehensive Santa Claus theme, covering all the major stake-holders in Finland. 

Since Finland, and at least one of its major companies, has cashed in on the universal and immediately understandable concept of Christmas, Latvia has a blueprint on how to base its fame on a holiday legend. 

"I could see the export of 'real Christmas trees,' or toys made from genuine Latvian fir from the home of the Christmas tree," Tilens said. The idea is out there; someone just needs to grab the reindeer by the horns. 

The Baltic Times Newspaper

More about the History of the Christmas Tree from Latvians Online

 

 

 

 

Information from Christmas Archives International UK

 

in an email to Patricia LTD, date Thursday, January 17, 2002, 5:51:37 PM .......

Hello and New Year Greetings from England!

I found your site whilst searching for something else. I notice that you  link to my site www.christmasarchives.com/tree.html

I am happy about this, thank you for the compliment.

I also notice that you have printed some news items about the Riga first  tree.

These are contradicting the original text by me, and also by Snyder, The  Christmas Tree, which is also referred to on your pages.

The Riga tree reference and the Martin Luther Tree reference are two different references. The Martin Luther Tree was not the Riga Tree. In fact, little is known about the original Riga tree other than the fact that it was attended by men wearing black hats, and that after a ceremony, they burn the tree. This was a mixture of pagan and Christian custom, as were very many of the customs in Central Europe.

The Martin Luther Tree was several decades later. The report in the Baltic  Times newspaper seems to have put the two events together to make one.

I hope that you do not mind me telling you this, but as Riga is very  important in the History of the Christmas Tree, I thought it best to tell  you so that you will not have erroneous information.

If I can assist you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Best and Warm wishes, and congratulations on a very attractive site. I hope  to have the opportunity to visit your Christmas market next year.


Maria
Countess Maria Hubert von Staufer
Christmas Archives International UK

 

 

Viena no leģendām vēsta, ka eglīte 1510.gadā pirmoreiz rotāta Rīgā
Article from Sestdiena, 3 - 9 December 2005,- Egīls Zirnis

 

Winter Solstice Celebration Riga Latvia 2007    Santa Claus visits for lighting of First Christmas Tree
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Christmas Market - 2005 - Historic Dome Square   Winter Solstice Pagan Festival - Log Pull through the streets