Sparrow Hawk, Kestrel, Pied Wagtail, Chiff Chaff, Dunock, Greenfinch
Peacock, Speckled Wood, Comma, Brimstone, Gatekeeper, Common Blue Butterflies
Red Tailed Bumblebee, Soldier Beetle, Diamond Bug (Family Phymatidae), Honey Bee (Apis mellifera), Large Red & Common Blue Damselflies, Common Darter, Southern & Migrant Hawker Dragonflies, Hoverflies (Syrphus vitripennis, Myathropa florae, Episyrphus balteatus, Cheilosia scutellata)
Lesser Garden Spider (Meta segmentata)
Adders, Grass Snake, Slow Worm
In the 7th century a monk from Devon went to Germany to preach the word of God and used the triangular shape of a fir tree to explain the Holy Trinity. Those converted
to Christianity began to revere the fir as God's Tree as they had previously
revered the oak. By the 12th century it was being hung upside down from
ceilings at Christmastime in Central Europe, as a symbol of Christianity. It is
believed that the first decorated tree was in Latvia in 1510 and early in the
16th century Martin Luther was said to have decorated a tree with candles to
demonstrate to his children the spectacle of the stars twinkling through the
trees in the forest.
In the mid 16th century Christmas markets were set up in German towns so that people could buy gifts, food etc., and bakers cooked shaped gingerbread and made wax ornaments as souvenirs of the markets, which were then taken home and hung on the Christmas tree. The best record there is, is of a visitor to Strasbourg in 1601, who describes a tree decorated with "wafers and golden sugar twists (Barley sugar) and paper flowers of all colours". The food items were symbols of Plenty and the flowers originally only red and white, for Knowledge and Innocence, respectively.
Tinsel was invented in Germany circa 1610. Real silver was used at that time and machines were made that pulled the silver into wafer thin strips. These were durable but readily tarnished with candlelight so attempts were made to mix lead and tin together. However this was heavy and broke easily so was impractical, thus silver was used for tinsel until the mid 20th century.
The first Christmas trees came to England with the Georgian kings from Germany. German merchants living in England decorated their homes with a Christmas tree, but the German monarchs were not popular with the general public so the fashions at court were not copied. Some homes did have a tree at this time which was probably due to the influence of their German neighbours. The decorations were of tinsel, silver wire ornaments, candles and small beads all of which would have been made in Germany and Eastern Europe. The custom was to have several small trees on the table, one for each member of the family, with the gifts for each person under their tree.
When in 1846 Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were shown with their children standing beside a decorated Christmas tree the custom immediately became popular, not only in the UK but with the fashionable American East Coast Society.
Decorations were still mostly of the homemade variety. Young ladies spent hours quilling snowflakes and stars, stitching small fabric pouches for secret gifts and making paper baskets which contained sugared almonds. Small bead decorations, silver tinsel and beautiful angels for the top of the tree were still obtained from Germany. Candles were often placed in wooden hoops for safety.
As the custom began to spread, the German Christmas tree was heading for mass destruction, as it became fashionable to lop off the tip of a large tree to bring into the house, thus preventing the tree from further growth, so statutes were made to prevent people from having more than one tree.
Electric lights for trees appeared in the USA in 1882 followed 10 years later by metal hooks for attaching ornaments.
Artificial trees were made in Germany in the 1880's of goose feathers which were quite popular, but then in America the Addis Brush Co. made the first brush trees using the same machinery which produced their toilet brushes !! These were more practical as they held heavier ornaments than the feather ones.
By late Victorian times Christmas trees were a great status symbol; the taller the tree the greater the affluence of the family displaying it, but following the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 the nation went into mourning and large flamboyant trees disappeared until the fashion for them was reintroduced in the 1930's.
During World War II, it was forbidden to cut down trees for decoration, and people preferred to keep their precious ornaments safely boxed in case of air raid damage, so home made decorations were used on tiny trees which were easily transferred to the shelter if an air raid warning was heard. However, large trees were erected in public places in an attempt to boost morale.
The mid Sixties saw another change. Silver aluminium trees were imported from America. Later the artificial spruce appeared and it was possible to have a 14 foot tree in the living room without a single needle on the floor. Very popular with the housewife. The tree could also be sprayed with a pine scent to give it an authentic aroma.
Real trees have once again become a favourite, with various species available. To have a real or nearly - real artificial one is a matter of personal choice, but each year seems to bring its "must have" fashion. I understand the trendy tree this Christmas is a BLACK one!
Merry Christmas and enjoy your tree whatever its pedigree.
Researched and edited by Joan Fynn