Captain's Cabin

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Myth Monday: Yule Tree

Yule Tree

I was hoping to have Festival of the Tree this weekend, but Bean said the trees have not come in from farm in Wisconsin yet. Bean like to have real tree because she says she only wants to put it up ONCE per year. It seem when she first live out on her own, she have artificial tree and the Cats that own her at the time climb it, and all the branches come out. And she end up taking it apart and having to redo it, only to have Cats climb it and take it all apart again.

Trees started being grown on farms in the early 1900's due to complains by conservationist of over harvesting.

Climbing the tree is, of course, a traditional activity for Cats at this time of the year. I purrrrsonally think it is wonderful that I can have tree inside to climb, because it much more convenient than having to go outside, even though tree inside doesn't really go anyplace or have birdies in it.

It is, however, covered in Cat toys.

The humans call the trees Christmas tree or Yule tree of Tannenbaum (which is German for "fir tree"). More recently, they are being referred to as "holiday tree". While most would argue that "Christmas Tree" is the correct name, it should noted that many pre-Christian cultures claimed the evergreen tree as a symbol during the winter season.

The winter festival of Yule was celebrated at various dates in late December or early January on a date determined by the lunar calendar. It was celebrated by a sacrifice, usually of boar, which was eaten at the Yule feast and of of the burning of the Yule log. It was fixed on the date of December 25th to help with the assimilation of the Pagans into Christianity. (Resistance is futile. Ham however, is traditional.) Germanic Neopagans and Wiccans as well several secular groups currently observe the holiday on the winter solstice (Dec. 21 or 22) in the Northern Hemisphere, June 20 or 21st if you happen to be down under.

The burning of the Yule log, the decorating of Christmas trees, the eating of ham, the hanging of boughs, holly, mistletoe, etc. are all historically practices associated with Yule.

In Germany "Patron Trees" held a special significance for the Germanic tribes. The Germans felt that oak, not evergreen, trees were special with Yggdrasil being the world tree, Irminsul being the oak pillars that connected heaven and earth, and Thor's Oak being the point of worship of the Thunder God. It was located near the village of Geismar, part of the current town on Fitzlar in northern Hesse. According to Church records, Saint Boniface supposedly felled Thor's Oak and replaced it in the Germanic culture with the cone-shaped Evergreen trees because their triangular appearance suggested the belief in "trinity".

Roman mosaics show Greek God Dionysus carrying a coniferous tree in his triumphant return from India.

The modern custom of the Festival of the Tree can be traced to the 16th century. Riga, Latvia claims to have the first "New Year's Tree" in 1510. There is some debate as to if this is the actual earliest known "modern" tree, as the German monk Martin Luther was said to have decorated a small tree to inside a house to symbolize the way the stars shined at night. A reference in the Breman Guild Chronicle in Germany in 1570 reports how a small fir tree was decorated with apples, nuts dales, pretzel and paper flowers for the benefit of the guild members' children who collected the goodies on Christmas day. Another reference, this time in 1597, talks about a tailor apprentices carrying a tree around the town decorated with apples and cheeses.

Which ever is true, it is most probably that this was also the earliest known occurrence of the household Cat climbing the tree. It was also about this time that the first known complaint of the custom of the tree distracting from the word of God appears, recorded by a German priest, Johann Konrad. Obviously, the "modern commercialization" of the holiday was not so modern day was many religious groups would have you believe.

By the 18th century, the custom of trees was common in the towns of West Germany, but not out in the country side. Wax candles were used to light the trees. It was largely regarded as a Protestant custom of the Catholic church and was spread there by Prussian officials who moved into the area in 1815.

Trees became popular in among the nobility and royal courts across central Europe and as far away as Russia by the early 19th century. The first Yule tree in France was introduced in 1840 by the duchess of Orleans. The British royal family had trees as well, Queen Victoria wrote in her journal in 1832 of two trees hung with lights and sugar ornaments, and with all the presents being placed around the tree.

Several cities lay claim to the first Yule tree in the United States of America. Windsor Locks, Connecticut, claims a Hussian soldier first set up a tree in 1777 while imprisoned at the Norden-Reed House. Easton, Pennsylvania, claims that German settlers first erected a tree in 1816, while Lancaster, Pennsylvania, states they had the first recorded use of a Yule tree in 1821.

Trees were only brought in and decorated on Christmas Eve and then removed the day after Christmas, as it was considered bad luck to keep them up longer. This understandable as you were using candles to light them and between this and the household Cats climbing them, you were certainly courting fire.

Modern Commercialization of the holiday season is said to have started when shops started putting of trees in late October. (Selfridge's Christmas department is up by early September, complete with trees.) It is common tradition to up the trees up right after Thanksgiving in America and take them down after New Years. Some say that the trees are supposed to stay up until after the Feast of the Three Kings on January 7th.

Bean takes the tree down usually right after New Years because it starts shedding too much. By that time, I've pretty much also got enough pine sap in my furs and have climbed myself out, so that works for me. By solstice I am more interested in what is under the tree and how Santa Claws sneaks into my house to put it there without my knowing about it.

There is all kinds of fun facts and stuff on Yule Trees at the National Christmas Tree Association's website. They claim the tree in Riga, Latvia in 1510 as the first recorded record of a decorated Christmas Tree and also have additional history of the tree, including the first White House tree.


Zippy, Sadie and Speedy said...

*sigh* Mom and dad used to put up a real tree when Punkin and Teddy (mom's tiny woofie) lived wif dem in da old house. Den when Zippy came dey would hafta tie da tree to da drapery rods to keep her from knocking it over...den came da fake tree and Speedy, bad combination. Dis year we haf a tiny little fake tree dat none of us is intristed in. Phooey!

Parker said...

That was very interesting - Mommy put our tree up yesterday! We have one of our own! They will put the big one up next weekend - A REAL TREE! We love it! We don't love the spray bottle that we get squirted with if we try to climb it!

Captain Jack and Dante said...

Our Mommy's family celebrates Yule as well as Christmas each year. Know what that means for us? Presents TWICE. Yep! We is spoiled kitties - at least according to Mom.

Name: Mr. Hendrix said...

Hi! Great information. I didn't know it has been so long we kitties have been climbing Christmas tress. We have 2 big ones and 2 little ones. I love my trees too. They are fake cause mommy is allergic to evergreens so we can't have a real tree. She sayz it works out cause we canjust leave them until she feels like taking them down! ha ha ha

PS when did you get a new sissy??? I missed that news.

Diamond Emerald-Eyes said...

Dear Mr. Hendrix,

She is plush sisfur, but I am much fonder of her then the other floofyheads in the house.

Tybalt said...

Very educational! You always have the most informative posts for the rest of us kitties. Our mommy has to do artificial trees cuz of allergies, but she loves the smell of a fresh tree. We have to be supervised with ours cuz we like to climb it and knock it over and other fun stuff like that.

MoMo said...

Your blog is such a font of information, SS and I are getting our education from it. We don't have trees inside the house :(, I only ever get to climb the ones outside and there are several of those.

Annie Mosaic Cat said...

We shall have no tree this year, therefore, I will say that ML once did a mosaic table depicting Dionysus! But I'm sure he was carrying wine, and not a tree, if ML did it.

Kimo & Sabi said...

That wuz furry good information. We don't even git a tree this year cuz da beans is too preoccupied wif blurpy stuff!

Sultanfus and Guy said...

Its time for trees? Tree time is here? Hey Ma hurry up! Put up our tree! Im dying to go for a climb!

michico*Adan said...

That is a wonderful beautiful tree~!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Your beans are amazing great~!

PB & J said...

Our Mom has to put a fake tree up this year, 'cause they have to go away during Christmas. But they haven't had one since they moved to Michigan and the kittens and the dog don't even know what fun it will be!!!!


Gattina said...

I am happily surprised that you wrote the real story of the Tannenbaum and Christmas. In my family the tree was put up on Dec 24 and children were not allowed to see it before the evening which increased the suspense ! It was taken down on Jan 2. Today still a lot of people do it that way and with REAL candles but there are also regions were they put the tree together with the advents wreath were on the first sunday of Dec one candle is lightened.
We made a compromise because we were both working we put up the tree 2 weeks before Christmas and take it down after Jan 6 which is an important holiday for my Italian husband. When he was a child there were no Christmas trees in Italy it only came up later in the 70th. Italians put up a Christmas crip and do competitions amongst themselves who has the biggest and most beautiful one !