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December 11#: Strasbourg Christmas Tree – France

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From its Puritan roots to complaints of rampant commercialism, Christmas around the world is been filled with traditions, old and new. Some date back to 16th-century Germany or even ancient Greek times, while others have caught on only in modern times.

And, among them, Christmas trees are one of the most popular, now all over the world.
Their tradition is long and rich, and has resulted in some modern trees that run the gamut from breathtakingly beautiful, encapsulating everything that Christmas stands for, to something simply weird.
Thus, If you need a little help to get into the holiday spirit this year, get yourself a winter drink with some holiday treats and a tour of the world’s best or most unusual Christmas trees. These towering pines (or sand or bottle piles, in some cases) are decked to the nines and shine brightly for holiday season, from Florida, Brazil, Mexico all the way to Lithuania.

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The Great Christmas Tree of Strasbourg, a city considered the Capital of Christmas in France, is probably the most popular “sapin de Noël” (French for Christmas tree) in the country.
Located on Strasbourg’s Place Kléber, it is the centrepiece for the city’s Christmas market, known as the Christkindlsmärik.
Dating to 1570 it is one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe and was the first in France.

As story goes, the first Christmas tree originated just in Strasbourg, Germany.
Yes, because Strasbourg was in Germany between the years 1870 and 1918, as France was defeated in the Franco Prussian War and it had to cede two provinces, Alsace and Lorrain to Germany.
Strasbourg is the chief city in the Alsace Lorrain provinces and is located presently in France.
Also prior to 1870 Strasbourg was located in France while, between the years 1870 until after World War I it was German.

Apparently, the oldest historically proved Christmas tree come from in AIsace, more precisely in Strasbourg around 1605.
A few decades later, Konrad Dannhauser, professor for Protestant theology and preacher in the Cathedral declaims against this custom, which he calls a bad habit. In his collection of sermons (1642-46), he stated that, “Among others trifles they hang dolls and sugar on the old Christmas tree they put up in their homes, an afterwards let it shake and pick these things up. Where this habit comes from don’t know. It is a childrens’ play.”
Either way, where this custom comes from we don’t know it either.
We know for sure only one thing, that it is Schlettstadt, in France, too, which has the glory to be the cradle of the oldest Christmas tree. In the towns account 1546 two men get 3 shillings “who cut trees for Christmas”.
The account book 1549-1565 contains the following decision of the Town’s Council made on Wednesday Dec. 17, 1555. “Nobody is allowed to have a Xmas tree except with punishment.”
And, in January 1557 the forster of Kinsheim get 2 shillings to guard, and 2 shillings to cut Christmas trees.

In any case, back to modern times, the search for the perfect tree begins in March each year, with the head of the production unit at France’s National Forestry Office driving hundreds of miles through the forests of Alsace and the Vosges Mountains to find it.
The National Forestry Office and its tree surgeons spend 120 hours getting the tree ready for its journey to Strasbourg.
A further 250 hours are spent preparing the tree, which includes implanting between 50 and 80 branches from other trees to make it look “fuller”.
30 metres is the minimum height of the tree, that weighs between 7 and 9 tonnes, while its trunk measures up to 120cm in diameter, and 7km of twinkling fairy lights will illuminate the tree.
The lights take three weeks to install and requires two climbers, a dozen electricians, eight landscape designers and two 40m-tall cherry pickers.
In addition to about 400 baubles, other decorations include biscuits, candles, illuminated angels and stars.

And yes, decorating a big tree is just the same as doing your tree at home.
You have to take account of the shape of the tree, and the first step is to install the fairy lights, wrapping them around each branch. Next, you add the other decorations. Then you step back to make sure there aren’t any gaps or similar decorations too close together. The difference with a big tree, though, is that you have a tree climber 30 metres in the air, talking to someone on the ground using a walkie-talkie or a mobile phone.
And It takes three weeks to complete the work!

Images from web – Google Research

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