The beginnings of the Christmas tree
An iconic symbol of Christmas celebrations, the tree has a long history behind it. In France, it was in 1521 in Sélestat, in Alsace, that the first written records mention a Christmas tree. However, it was not until 1546, in the same city, that the idea of Christmas trees became a reality thanks to the authorization to cut green trees for the holidays, in particular during the night of Saint Thomas on December 21. At that time, the trees were decorated with roses, symbols of the Virgin, but also with apples, sweets and small cakes resembling wafers.
Apples, beyond their decorative aspect, had a deep symbolic meaning, associated with the apple from the Garden of Eden in the Bible. Furthermore, on the ancient calendar of saints, December 24 was dedicated to Adam and Eve. Apples were therefore the first decorations of the Christmas tree as we know it.
A pagan tradition
Even before the advent of Christianity and the establishment of the Christmas festival, various cultures celebrated the winter solstice, on December 21, by decorating trees, including the fir, with symbolic elements such as fruits, flowers and wheat. These pagan traditions were often linked to seasonal rituals aimed at honoring nature, celebrating fertility, and warding off the dark forces associated with the winter period.
The ritual decoration of Christmas trees with fruit and sweets really took off in the 17th century in Germany. Apples, nuts, dates and various other fruits adorned the branches to celebrate the season. These decorations symbolized generosity and prosperity, also sometimes associated with religious symbols.
Over the centuries, this tradition evolved, with fruits being replaced by various items such as candles, candies, toys and paper ornaments. During the winter of 1858 in the Vosges region, the harvests were so disastrous that they led to a shortage of fruit, prompting a glassworks artisan from Goetzenbruck, near Meisenthal in Moselle, to create blown glass apples to adorn the fir trees.
Thus were born the glass Christmas baubles, preserving a tradition steeped in stories and symbols, where once apples adorned the trees, not only as decorative elements, but also as edible ornaments.