Wednesday, December 22, 2010

O' Christmas Tree

While people in the States have had their trees up now for weeks, Czechs typically put their trees up on Christmas Eve (although many people do set them up earlier).  Nativity scenes are arranged, gifts are wrapped, and preparations for Christmas dinner are made.  

The tradition of decorating Christmas trees is not very old in the Czech Republic.  Legend has it that the first Christmas tree in Prague was erected for Christmas in 1812 at the Liben Chateau by the director of the Theater of the Estates, J.K. Leibich, for his guests.  Soon after, the Czech aristocracy and wealthy town people followed his lead and in 1840, the tradition of Christmas tree decorating was widespread. 

In the past, trees were decorated with sweets, various folk ornaments made from wood, gingerbread or dough, although nowadays they have mostly been replaced by blown glass and colorful tinsel.  

However, traditional ornaments made from natural materials are slowly making a comeback, including straw ornaments, apples, nuts and the orange fruit of the Chinese lantern plant.  

It was also customary to fasten real candles to the tree's branches to be lit in the evening , giving Christmas Eve an even greater sense of magic!  Some people still use candles, and they truly are beautiful, but make sure to have a fire extinguisher nearby!

Did you know that originally Christmas trees were  hung tip-down, not standing upright?  
 Just doesn't look right...