The pagan origin of Christmas trees
In Mexico, setting up a Christmas tree has become a popular tradition - Photo: File Photo/EL UNIVERSAL

The pagan origin of Christmas trees

19/12/2019
13:09
Newsroom/EL UNIVERSAL in English
Mexico City
Uriel Gámez Hernández
-A +A
Did you know Queen Victoria was a fan of Christmas trees?

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Mexican homes transform during Christmas. They are adorned with natural or artificial Christmas trees, decorations, ornaments, Christmas lights, poinsettias, and nativity sets.

Yet the most important element is the Christmas tree. It glistens with its ornaments, baubles, lights, and fills up the home with a fresh aroma. Along with the smell of ponche and Christmas dinner, this is the perfect combination to celebrate with family and friends.

Although the tradition of setting up a Christmas tree didn’t originate in Mexico, the country happily adopted the tradition and now forests, markets, and department stores sell Christmas trees but do you know where does this tradition come from?

Did you know you can pick your own Christmas tree in Mexico City?

The story behind Christmas trees

Hundreds of years ago, Egyptians filled their homes with green palm rushes to celebrate the god Ra during the winter solstice.

The Romans celebrated the solstice with a feast called Saturnalia where they paid homage to Saturn, the god of agriculture. The celebrate the occasion, they decorated their homes and temples with evergreen boughs.

The Druids and Celts also decorated their homes and temples with evergreens. For the Vikings, evergreens had a special meaning for the god Balder.

Furthermore, Germanic people celebrated the winter solstice with a 12-day-festival called Yule. Many years later, Yule was modified and became Christmastide. As a result, many modern-day Christmas traditions come from Yule traditions, for example, when Saint Boniface converted the Germanic people, Yule took another meaning. The religious man took away the Yggdrasil, a mythical tree that plays a key role in Norse mythology, planted a pine and adorned it with apples.

Celebrate Christmas 2019 in Mexico City

Moreover, it is Germany who started the Christmas tree tradition as we know it today. Back in the 16th century, Christians brought decorated trees inside their homes, others built wood pyramids that were then decorated with evergreens and candles. Moreover, it is believed that Martin Luther was the first to add lighted candles to the Christmas tree and even Queen Victory was a big fan of Christmas trees.

Nowadays, the baubles and ornaments used to decorate the Christmas tree have replaced the apples used by St. Boniface and years later, lighted candles were replaced with Christmas lights.
 

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Photo: Tanya Guerrero/EL UNIVERSAL
 

In Mexico, the Christmas tree arrived between 1864 and 1867, when Maximilian, Archduke of Austria briefly ruled Mexico. But after he was executed, all the traditions promote by the Emperor and his court were disdained and Mexicans stopped decorating Christmas trees.

Posadas in Mexico: a traditional Christmas celebration

Years later, between 1917 and 1920, people slowly started to embrace the tradition and the Alameda Central, a park in downtown Mexico City, was full of street vendors who offered piñatas, turkeys, muss, hay, and Christmas trees.
 

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Photo: Ivan Stephens/EL UNIVERSAL

In the 1950s, Mexicans started to adopt this tradition again, when the U.S. marketing promoted Christmas trees through films and TV shows.

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