Where did the Christmas tree come from?
Where did the Christmas tree come from?

The tradition of celebrating New Year's holidays with a Christmas tree has become so strongly embedded in our everyday life that almost no one asks questions about where the tree came from, what it symbolizes why the tree is an integral attribute for Christmas and New Year.

When did the tree appear with us and where it came from, and we will try to find out in this article.

In 1906, the philosopher Vasily Rozanov wrote:

“Many years ago I was surprised to learn that the custom of the Christmas tree does not belong to the number of indigenous Russianscustom. Yolka is currently so firmly established in Russian society that it would not occur to anyone that she is not Russian "

The tradition of celebrating the New Year with a Christmas tree was brought to Russia by a decree by false Peter I in 1699:

"… now from the Nativity of Christ comes the year 1699, and the future Genvara on the 1st day will come a new year 1700 and a new capital day, and for that good and useful purpose, the Great Sovereign pointed out henceforth to count in the Orders to write the letters and in all sorts of January 1 from the 1st of the Nativity of Christ in 1700. And as a sign of that good beginning and new capital in the reigning city of Moscow, after that thanksgiving to God and prayers in the church and who will happen in his house, on the streets of great and familiar to people and at houses of deliberate spiritual and secular rites, before the gates, to make some decorations from the trees and the trees of pine, spruce and juniper trees against the samples, which were given at the Gostin dvor and at the lower pharmacy, or to whom, as convenient, and looking at the gates it is possible; and the poor people, each, although according to a tree, or turn into the gates, or put over his temple; and then it was time, now of the day of Genvara on the 1st day of this year, and the adornment of Genvare stands on the 7th day of that 1700 year …"

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Nevertheless, the decree of Emperor Peter had only an indirect relation to the future Christmas tree: firstly, the city was decorated not only with spruce, but also with other conifers; secondly, the decree recommended the use of both whole trees and branches, and, finally, thirdly, pine needle decorations were prescribed to be installed not indoors, but outside - on gates, roofs of taverns, streets and roads. By this, the tree turned into a detail of the New Year's cityscape, and not the Christmas interior, which it became much later.

The text of the sovereign's decree testifies to us that for Peter, in the custom he introduced, which he met during his European trip, both aesthetics were important - houses and streets were ordered to be decorated with needles, and symbolism - decorations from evergreen needles should have been created to commemorate celebrating the New Year.

It is important that the Peter's decree of December 20, 1699 is almost the only documenton the history of the Christmas tree in Russia in the 18th century. After the death of the impostor, they stopped erecting Christmas trees. Only the owners of taverns decorated their houses with them, and these trees stood at taverns all year round - hence their name - "".

The sovereign's instructions were preserved only in the decoration of drinking establishments, which, before the New Year, continued to be decorated with Christmas trees. By these trees, which were tied to a stake, installed on the roofs or stuck at the gates, taverns were identified. The trees stood there until the next year, on the eve of which the old ones were replaced with new ones. Arising as a result of Peter's decree, this custom was maintained throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

Pushkin mentions in the "History of the village of Goryukhin". This characteristic detail was well known and was reflected from time to time in many works of Russian literature. Sometimes, instead of a Christmas tree, pines were placed on the roofs of taverns:

And in the poem by N. P. Kilberg in 1872 "Yolka" the coachman is sincerely surprised that the master cannot recognize a drinking establishment in it due to the tree hammered in at the door of the hut:

That is why, the taverns were popularly called "Yolki" or "Ivans-Yolkin": ""; ""; "". Soon, the whole complex of "alcoholic" concepts gradually acquired "Christmas tree" doublets: "" - to drink, "" or "" - to go to a tavern, "" - to be in a tavern; "" - a state of alcoholic intoxication, etc.

Is it by chance that false Peter I, by his decree, introduces into the cult of veneration on the territory of Muscovy a tree that has become a symbol of drinking establishments, and in the folk tradition was considered a tree of death?

Naturally, among the people, the custom of decorating a Christmas tree took root with difficulty, since spruce has been considered in Russia since ancient times. tree of death: it is no coincidence that to this day it is customary to pave the road with spruce branches along which the funeral procession goes, and it is not customary to plant trees near houses. And what a fear a trip to a spruce forest evokes, where in broad daylight you can easily get lost, since a spruce passes sunlight very poorly in spruce forests, so it is very dark and scary from this. There was also a custom: to bury those who had strangled and, in general, suicides between two trees, turning them. It was forbidden to build houses from spruce, as well as from aspen. In addition, in Russian wedding songs, the spruce was associated with the theme of death, where it symbolized an orphan bride.

In ancient times, among the Slavic-Aryans, the tree was a symbol of death, which was associated with the "other world", the transition to it and a necessary element of the funeral ritual. Since our ancestors burned their dead, i.e. sent them to the genus, then spruce, like a resinous tree that burns well at any time of the year, and was used in cropping. The deceased Slavic prince or princess was thickly covered with branches of spruce and cones, at the end of the funeral prayers of the Magi, when grains were strewn with oats, rye and the many mourners' voices, a mournful bonfire or kroda was set on fire. A burning flame rushed into the sky.

Throughout the entire 18th century, nowhere, except for drinking establishments, spruce no longer appears as an element of New Year's or Yuletide decor: its image is absent in New Year's fireworks and illuminations; she is not mentioned when describing Christmas masquerades at court; and, of course, she is absent from the folk Christmas games. In the stories about the New Year and Yuletide festivities held during this period of Russian history, never indicates the presence of spruce in the room.

The people of Ancient Russia did not see anything poetic in the image of ate. Growing mainly in damp and swampy places, this tree with dark green thorny needles, unpleasant to the touch, rough and often damp trunk, did not enjoy much love. Spruce was depicted without sympathy, like other conifers, both in Russian poetry and in literature, until the end of the 19th century. Here are just a few examples. F.I.Tyutchev wrote in 1830:

The spruce tree evoked gloomy associations among the poet and prose writer of the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries A.N. Budishchev:

And Joseph Brodsky, conveying his feelings from the northern landscape (the place of his exile is the village of Koreansky), notes:

The mortal symbolism of the sprucewas learned and became widespread during the Soviet era… The spruce has become a characteristic detail of official burial grounds, first of all - Lenin's mausoleum, near which silver Norwegian spruces were planted:

The mortal symbolism of ate was also reflected in proverbs, sayings, phraseological units: "" - it's hard to get sick; "" - die; "", "" - coffin; “” - to die, etc. The sound roll call provoked the convergence of the word “tree” with a number of obscene words, which also influenced our perception of this tree.Characteristic and "Christmas tree" euphemisms, widely used today: "", "", etc.

The revival of the Christmas tree began only in mid-19th century… It is believed that the first Christmas tree in St. Petersburg was organized by the Germans who lived there. The townspeople liked this custom so much that they began to install Christmas trees in their homes. From the capital of the empire, this tradition began to spread throughout the country.

Neither Pushkin, nor Lermontov, nor their contemporaries ever mention the Christmas tree, while Christmastide, Christmas masquerades and balls in literature and in magazine articles are constantly described at this time: Christmas divination is given in Zhukovsky's ballad "" (1812), Christmastide in the landlord house are depicted by Pushkin in Chapter V "" (1825), on Christmas Eve the action of Pushkin's poem "" (1828) takes place, Lermontov's drama "" (1835) is timed to Christmas Eve: "".

The first mention of the treeappeared in the newspaper "Northern Bee" on the eve of 1840: the newspaper reported on the "" trees for sale. A year later, in the same edition, an explanation of the fashionable custom appears:

During the first ten years, Petersburg residents still perceived the Christmas tree as a specific German custom. A. V. Tereshchenko, author of the seven-volume monograph "Life of the Russian People" (1848), wrote:

The detachment with which the description of the holiday is given to them testifies to the novelty of this custom for the Russian people:

S. Auslander's story "Christmastide in Old Petersburg" (1912) tells that the first Christmas tree in Russiawas arranged by the sovereign Nicholas Iin the very in the late 1830s, after which, following the example of the royal family, they began to install it in the noble houses of the capital:

Come from Germany tree with early 1840s begins to be assimilated by the Russian families of the capital. In 1842, the Zvezdochka magazine for children, which was published by the children's writer and translator A. O. Ishimova, informed its readers:

TO mid 19th century German custom has become firmly established in the life of the Russian capital. The Christmas tree is becoming quite common for a resident of St. Petersburg. In 1847, N.A.Nekrasov mentions her as something familiar and understandable to everyone:

V. Iofe, exploring the "" of Russian poetry of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, noted the beginning from the end of the 19th century increasing the popularity of the spruce, apparently connected with the fact that the spruce in the minds of the Russian people is firmly connected with the positive symbol of the Christmas tree:

And already pre-revolutionary children's literature is full of stories about children's joy from meeting with the Christmas tree. K. Lukashevich writes about it “My sweet childhood”, M. Tolmacheva “How Tasya lived”, nun Varvara “Christmas is a golden childhood”, A. Fedorov-Davydov “Instead of a Christmas tree” and many others.

It's a funny fact, but the Christian church has become a serious opponent of the Christmas tree, as a foreign and, moreover, Vedic in its origin custom. Until the 1917 revolution, the Holy Synod issued decrees prohibiting the arrangement of trees in schools and gymnasiums.

Nevertheless, by the beginning of the 20th century, the Christmas tree was becoming a common occurrence in Russia. After 1917, the trees were preserved for several years: let us recall the paintings "Christmas tree in Sokolniki", "Christmas tree in Gorki". But in 1925, a planned struggle against religion and Orthodox holidays began, the result of which was the final abolition of Christmas in 1929… Christmas Day has become a regular working day. Along with Christmas, the tree was also canceled, already firmly intertwined with it. The Christmas tree, which the Orthodox Church once opposed, now began to be called the "priest's" custom. And then the tree "went underground": they secretly continued to put it up for Christmas, tightly closing the windows.

The situation changed after JV Stalin uttered the words: "". At the end of 1935, the tree was not so much revived as turned into a new holiday, which received a simple and clear wording: "". Arrangement of Christmas trees for children of employees of institutions and industrial enterprises becomes mandatory… The connection of the tree with Christmas was consigned to oblivion.The Christmas tree has become an attribute of the national holiday of the New Year. Eight pointed star - the Slavic-Aryan sign of the Sun, which Christians called the Star of Bethlehem, at the top "" has now replaced five pointed star, the same as on the Kremlin towers.

In 1954, the main Christmas tree of the country, the Kremlin, was lit for the first time, which sparkles and sparkles every New Year.

After 1935, toys reflected the development of the national economy in the USSR. The popular Soviet magazine Vokrug Sveta, popular in those years, explained:

Christmas remained banned until 1989. Such is the difficult story of the New Year tree in Russia.

Where did the Christmas tree holiday originate?

It turns out that many Europeanized Slavic-Aryan peoples during the Christmas season have long used christmas or Christmas time log, a huge piece of wood, or stump, which was lit on the hearth on the first day of Christmas and gradually burned out during the twelve days of the holiday. It is a popular belief that keeping a piece of Christmas wood carefully throughout the year protected the home from fire and lightning, provided the family with plenty of grain, and helped the cattle bear offspring easily. As a Christmas log, stumps of spruce and beech trunks were used. Among the southern Slavs, this is the so-called badnyak, for the Scandinavians - juldlock, for the French - le buche de Noël (Christmas block, which, in fact, if you read these words in Russian, we get bukh - Russian butt - the reverse side of an ax-ax, there is quite a block or log; and but-ate is like a merger of words - a Norwegian tree or a new New Year tree, or the best and most accurate hit night tree).

The history of the transformation of spruce into a Christmas tree has not yet been precisely reconstructed. Surely we only know that it happened on the territory Germany, where the spruce during the Vedic culture was especially revered and was identified with the world tree: "". It was here, among the ancient Slavs, the ancestors of the Germans, that she first became a New Year, and later - a Christmas plant symbol. Among the Germanic peoples, there has long been a custom to go to the forest on New Year's, where the spruce tree chosen for the ritual role was lit with candles and decorated with colored rags, after which the corresponding rituals were performed near or around it. Over time, spruce trees were cut down and brought into the house, where they were set on the table. Lighted candles were attached to the tree, apples and sugar products were hung on it. The emergence of the cult of spruce as a symbol of undying nature was facilitated by its evergreen cover, which made it possible to use it during the winter festive season, which was a transformation of the long-known custom of decorating houses with evergreens.

After the baptism and romanization of the Slavic peoples inhabiting the territory of modern Germany, the customs and rituals associated with the veneration of ate began to gradually acquire a Christian meaning, and they began to use it as christmas tree, installing in houses no longer on New Years, but on Christmas Eve, i.e. the eve of the Christmas of the Sun (God), December 24, which is why it got the name of the Christmas tree - Weihnachtsbaum (- an interesting word, which, if read in parts and in Russian, is very similar to the following - holy night log, where if we add "s" to Weih, then we get the Russian word holy or light). From that time on, on Christmas Eve (Weihnachtsabend), the festive mood in Germany began to be created not only by Christmas carols, but also by a tree with candles burning on it.

Christmas tree with candles and decorations first mentioned in 1737 year. Fifty years later, there is a record of a certain baroness who claims to be in every German house.

In France, the custom persisted for a long time burn a christmas log on christmas eve (le buche de Noël), and the tree was learned more slowly and not as readily as in the northern countries.

In the story-stylization of the writer-emigrant MA Struve "The Parisian Letter", which describes the "first Parisian impressions" of a Russian youth who celebrated Christmas in 1868 in Paris, it is said:

Charles Dickens, in his 1830 essay "Christmas Dinner", describing English Christmas, does not yet mention the tree, but writes about the traditional English mistletoe branch, under which boys traditionally kiss their cousins, and the holly branch adorned with giant pudding … However, in the essay "Christmas Tree", written in the early 1850s, the writer already enthusiastically welcomes the new custom:

Most of the peoples of Western Europe began to actively adopt the tradition of the Christmas tree only by the middle of the 19th century. The spruce gradually became an essential and integral part of the family holiday, although the memory of its German origin persisted for many years.

Alexander Novak

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