Christmas tree
Christmas tree
In 1699, Peter the Great ordered to count years not from the Creation, but from the Nativity of Christ, and to count a new year not from September 1, but from January 1. Following the example of all Christian nations, the Tsar ordered the capital to be decorated with pine needles, rockets to be launched and lights to be lit. At first the holiday did not take root, and after Peter the Great's death the custom was forgotten for a long time.
For the first time a decorated Christmas tree was installed in the German city of Strasbourg at the beginning of the 16th century. Gradually the custom spread throughout Europe.
The custom of decorating a Christmas tree was remembered in the 19th century at the Kremlin Chudov Palace. In 1817, Grand Duke Nikolai Pavlovich, the future Emperor Nicholas I, pleased his young wife Alexandra Feodorovna, Prussian king’s daughter, with the first real Christmas tree in Russia. It was decorated with candles, sweets and gifts hanging from the branches.
By the 1880s, Christmas trees had become commonplaces in Moscow. They were set up not only at homes, but also in schools, institutions and skating rinks, and toy shops began to sell Christmas decorations.
Nobility, merchants and industrialists organized charitable New Year's balls for children. Soon public Christmas trees began to appear in the buildings of officers' and merchants' assemblies, clubs, theaters and other places.
During World War I, Christmas trees fell into disfavor. An anti-German campaign began in the country, and the Christmas tradition was considered hostile. Nicholas II forbade following this tradition. After the revolution, the prohibition on Christmas trees was lifted, but not for long: an anti-religious campaign began. The celebration of Christmas was forbidden.
Following the Emperor's example, the Moscow nobility began to decorate Christmas trees. The first Christmas tree was installed in public in 1852 in St. Petersburg’s building of the Catherinehof railway station. Later, public Christmas trees began to appear at other public places.
Christmas tree decoration
Christmas toys appeared in the late 18th century, when decorations made of gold-plated spruce cones, silver-plated stars made of straw and small angels made of embossed brass became fashionable.
Since the 16th century, Christmas trees have been decorated only with edible "toys": apples reminiscent of the paradise fruits, unleavened waffles instead of prosphoras, pastila, gingerbread and nuts gilded with real gold leaf.
The top of the tree was decorated with the Star of Bethlehem, which showed Magi the way to the cave where Jesus Christ was born. On the tree there were figures of singing angels praising God, and shepherds with sheep who came to worship the Infant.
On the branches there were 12 burning candles in honor of the apostles. Gifts were also placed on the branches. Under the tree a bucket of water was placed in case branches caught fire from candles.
Families began to accept the tradition of making their own Christmas toys. On Christmas Eve, adults with children spent the evening making wadded and cardboard animals, angels, and snowflakes.
Since the middle of the 19th century, glass decorations have been fashionable. Russian traders once a year were sure to go to Germany, where they bought toys for sale. By the end of the 19th century the first "Christmas toys" factories opened in Klin and St. Petersburg.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, toys made of cotton wool appeared. Wool figures of animals, lady dolls, artisans and soldiers were spun on a wire frame, varnished and painted. In addition to the cotton wool, toys were made of cardboard: two halves of figures were glued together, so that they looked the same from every angle. Trees were decorated with colorful starched lace.
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