tree illuminates the holiday spirit
The spirit of Christmas came alive last
Wednesday evening as the San Pedro Town Council kicked off San Pedro's official
holiday season with the traditional lighting ceremony. This year, those
attending were witness to the lighting of Barrier Reef Drive as well as a
40-foot Christmas tree at Central Park. Councilor Domingo Perez is responsible
for arranging this wonderful addition to the town's festivities. The councilor's
friend Miguel Urbina Jr., of Goat Hill Farm in Orange Walk, generously donated
the two-ton tree which required 1500 lights to decorate. Caribbean Depot
provided the shipping of the tree to San Pedro at no cost.
During the ceremony, Councilor Perez told the crowd,
"We hope the tree brightens up your hearts," further explaining how people from
all the districts of Belize make up our community. To demonstrate this, each
district has a Christmas greeting hanging on the tree. Local businesses and
organizations are encouraged to add their own greetings and messages to the tree
as well. Anyone wishing more information may contact the councilor at the
Ambergris Caye Planning Committee by calling 2258.
The tradition of decorated Christmas trees goes
back many, many years. Ancient, pre-Christian winter festivals used greenery,
lights and fires to symbolize life and warmth in the midst of cold and darkness.
The most splendid symbol of a modern Christmas is the brilliantly decorated
evergreen tree with strings of multicolored lights.
The Christmas Tree tradition
The use of
evergreens and wreaths as symbols of life was an ancient custom of the
Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews, among other people. Tree worship was a common
feature of religion among the Teutonic and Scandinavian people of northern
Europe before their conversion to Christianity. They decorated houses and barns
with evergreens at the new year to scare away demons, and they often set up
trees for the birds in winter. For these northern Europeans, this winter
celebration was the happiest time of the year because it signified that the
shortest day of the year, December 21, had passed. They knew the days would
start to get longer and brighter. The month during which this festival took
place was named Jol, from which the word "Yule" is derived. Yule has come to
mean Christmas in some countries.
The modern Christmas tree
seems to have originated in Germany during the Middle Ages. In a medieval play
about Adam and Eve, a main prop was a fir tree hung with apples. Called the
"Paradise tree" it represented the Garden of Eden. German families set up a
Paradise tree in their homes on December 24th, the feast day of Adam and Eve. On it
they hung wafers, symbolizing the bread distributed at the celebration of the
Holy Eucharist, or Communion, in churches. Because the Christmas holiday
followed immediately, candles representing Christ as the light of the world were
often added to the tree. Eventually cookies and other sweets were hung instead
In the same room as the tree, Germans kept a
Christmas pyramid made of wood, with shelves to hold figurines. The pyramid was
also decorated with evergreens, candles and a star. By the 16th century, the pyramid and the Paradise
tree had merged, becoming the Christmas tree so popular today.
The Christmas tree was introduced into England early in the
19th century and was made
popular by Prince Albert, the German husband of Queen Victoria. The trees were
decorated with candles, candies, paper chains, and fancy cakes which were hung
from the branches on ribbons.
German settlers brought the
Christmas tree custom to the American colonies in the 17th century. By the 19th century its use was quite widespread.
Trees were also popular in Austria, Switzerland, Poland and Holland. In China
and Japan, Christmas trees were introduced by Christian missionaries in the
19th and 20th centuries. There, they were decorated
with intricate paper designs.
Many thanks to Councilor
Perez and the San Pedro Town Council for their efforts in promoting this
wonderful Christmas tradition.