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Christmas Party Games -- Decorating the Tree

Aug 17, 2007
Christmas party games, family gatherings, decorations and gifts make the holiday season special. In many homes, the holiday season includes the Christmas tree decked in all its glory. Often, decorating the tree is a traditional event shared by the whole family. But how did this tradition start? Who decorated the first Christmas tree and why?

Decorated Christmas trees can be traced back to the ancient Romans. During their winter festival or Saturnalia, the Roman's decorated trees with small pieces of metal in honor of Saturnus, the god of agriculture. Decorated trees and games were enjoyed throughout the festival.

Centuries ago in Great Britain, Druids, or wood priest as they were called, used evergreens during winter solstice rituals. During these rituals, The Druids played games and used holly and mistletoe as symbols of eternal life. They also placed evergreen branches over doors to keep away evil spirits.

During the middle ages the Paradise tree, which was an evergreen, was decorated with apples as a symbol of the feast of Adam and Eve. This feast was held on December 24th.

In 1531 Christmas trees were sold in Alsace. Alsace was at that time a part of Germany. Today it is part of France. The trees were sold at local markets to be placed in homes but were not decorated. In Alsace, there was an ordinance that stated no person "shall have for Christmas more than one bush of more than eight shoe lengths."

Sixteenth century folklore credited Martin Luther as being the first to decorate an indoor tree. After a walk through a forest of evergreens with shining stars overhead, Luther tried to describe the experience to his family and showed them by bringing a tree into their home and decorating it with candles. Some historians dispute this stating that the first evidence of a lighted tree appeared more than a century after Martin Luther's death in 1546.

The oldest record of a decorated Christmas tree came from a 1605 diary found in Strasburg, France (Germany in 1605). The tree was decorated with paper roses, apples and candies.

In Austria & Germany during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the tops of evergreens were cut and hung upside down in a living room corner. They were decorated with apples, nuts and strips of red paper. Creating the decorations was a festive event that included playing games and other merriment much like Christmas party games played today.

The Christmas tree tradition has remained as an important part of the season in Germany. It is the center of their holiday celebration and no home is without a decorated tree. The tree is setup undecorated and remains undecorated until Christmas Eve. While undecorated, the tree is appreciated for its natural beauty and the wonderful pine scent it brings inside. The tree is decorated with countless candles, golden fruits and shimmering ornaments. The decorated and lit tree is introduced Christmas Eve much to the wonderment and delight of the children. The day continues with fun, food and Christmas games.

Christmas trees came to America when the German Moravian Church settled in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 1747. The trees were meant as an amusement for the children. The tree itself was not used but wooden pyramids covered with the tree's evergreen branches were decorated with candles.

Another record of Christmas trees in America was during the War of Independence when it was introduced by Hessian troops.

The first Christmas tree in Britain was said to be setup at Windsor Castle by Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, in 1834. Some historians state that it was actually Queen Charlotte, Victoria's grandmother, who had the introduced the Christmas tree to the royal family at the Queen's lodge at Windsor on Christmas Day in 1800.

The custom of decorating trees was introduced by Charles Minnegrode of Williamsburg, Virginia in the year of 1842. This became a Christmas tradition that includes the gathering of family and friends, playing Christmas party games and eating favorite sweets.

The Christmas tree became fashionable in the 1850's. Until this time, it had been considered a quaint foreign custom.

In 1851, Mark Carr brought trees from the Catskills to the streets of New York. Carr hauled two ox-drawn sleds full of evergreen trees into New York City and sold them all. Thus the Christmas tree market was born in America.

The first White House tree was introduced by President Franklin Pierce in 1856. It was setup for a group of local Sunday school children. President Calvin Coolidge started the first national Christmas tree tradition and lighting ceremony in 1923.

By 1900, one in five American families had a Christmas tree, and 20 years later, the custom was nearly universal. Nearly every Christian American household today celebrates the holiday season with a decorated tree. Other holiday traditions have remained from the origins of the Christmas tree that include a tree decorating parties, feasts of traditional foods and playing Christmas party games.
About the Author
Terri Hunziker founded GamesAndLetters.com. Games and Letters provides hundreds of print-and-play games -- Christmas party games, bridal shower games, baby shower games and more! For immediate access to hundreds of fun games and ideas for your next party, visit, gamesandletters.com.
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