Garlands, Candy Canes, Stars, Angels & Ribbons

December’s festive spirit is symbolized by the stately Christmas Tree.  This month ChasingART will celebrate this noble tradition by exploring, through the creativity of artists,  how an evergreen conifer – spruce, pine or fir – came to hold a special place in our homes and in our hearts at Christmastime.

Christmas by Karl Reichert, Private Collection

To be clear, we are not the first to use evergreens as symbols. Long before the advent of Christianity, people believed that evergreen trees held mystical powers and would protect their homes and family from illness and the dangers of ghosts and witches,

Ancient Egyptians decorated their homes with green palm rushes at the solstice, in celebration of the sun god, Ra.  Ancient Romans also used the time of solstice to honour Saturn, the god of agriculture, with of a feast called Saturnalia.  Evergreen boughs were their decoration of choice for their homes and temples. The ancient Celts believed that evergreen boughs signified everlasting life.  The Vikings believed that evergreens belonged to their sun god, Balder.

Fast forward to the 16th century, Germany.  Somewhere along the way from ancient times, evergreen trees became embedded in the Christmas tradition.  It is said that Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, had the “bright” idea to add candles.  One winter night, when on a walk, he looked up and was entranced by the beauty of the stars above.  He decided that he would recreate the scene inside his home with lighted candles on his Christmas tree. A lovely idea, even if a fire hazard.

Join me as I look through the past and see how artists used garlands, candy canes, stars, angels, ribbons, and tinsel to create Christmas trees and memorable, even poignant, moments.

The first painting is by Austrian painter and lithographer, Karl Reichert (1836-1918).

He sometimes used a pseudonym of J. Hartung and R. Heinz to sign his paintings.

There is a joyful simplicity in the vision of a family of dogs gathered around the tree.  It is a reminder that we share this world with fellow creatures whose need for love and belonging is as deep and profound as ours.

“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”
Roger Caras

During this season of joy and compassion, may we remember our four-legged friends.

 

13 Comments »

  1. You’re familiar with the story of the first Christmas tree in North America? I love it, because it honors the hometown of my French Canadian ancestors, of course!

    https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/christmas-tree-o-christmas-tree-your-branches-green-delight-us-feature

    We’re not allowed “live” trees or pets where I live, so it’s lovely to see this art and reminisce about past Christmases with green trees, pets and children abounding. Sweet nostalgia!

    • I was not familiar with the first Christmas tree in North America – and to think is was in Canada. I pulled out the part in the article that related to Sorel to add to the comments. This is indeed interesting. I looked up the history of Sorel and was amazed that one little town had so much activity and historical events, even a place that welcomed Loyalists from the US.

      “The Christmas tree made its first appearance in North America on Christmas Eve 1781, in Sorel, Quebec. The baroness Riedesel hosted a party of British and German officers. She served an English pudding, but the sensation of the evening was a fir tree in the corner of the dining room, its branches decorated with fruits and lit with candles. After what the family had suffered over the past two years, the baroness was determined to mark their return to Canada with a traditional German celebration.”

      Our Christmas tree came with lights already attached (no “live” trees here at our place either unless they are alive and stay alive.) A neighbour brings in a potted Christmas tree. I was surprised by the number and age of paintings of Christmas trees. Even more interesting are the background stories of the painters. I continue to learn and learn and learn…

  2. Lovely, just lovely! Thank you, Rebecca!
    I love all the animals. I know dogs and cats have moved into our homes (well, the lucky ones) but I also adore goats, cows, pigs, pigeons, horses and on and on!

    • I love this painting and chose it to begin the series. I know that you love all animals. I believe that we owe a debt of gratitude to our fellow creatures who share our earth. Karl Reichert has a profound understanding of dogs and cats. His painting are spectacular as well as adorable. I had never heard of this painter before. So many stories held within the brushstrokes.

  3. This is really a good history lesson for me, really very interesting. Christmas really would lose a lot if the Christmas tree were not a part. So lovely all decorated up with favorite and often treasured old keepsakes. And the delightful smell of the green boughs! Unfortunately this is lost if the tree is purchased from a store!

    • I am delighted that you enjoyed this post. We are off to Denmark in a few days, which will remind you of the traditions that came through your Danish roots. I am enjoying looking through the beautiful paintings that show the love of family life through the celebration of Christmas.

    • Thanks for stopping by – I loved this painting of dogs. This painter was especially known for his painting of dogs and cats. I had never heard of him before, but now I will remember his love for animals.

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