Inventing the Christmas Tree Bernd Brunner, Benjamin A. Smith

Publication date:
01 Nov 2012
Yale University Press
108 pages: 178 x 127 x 394mm
7 color + 15 b-w illus.

A colourfully decorated Christmas tree, lit with twinkling lights, provokes awe and delight. We understand the lighted tree as a central symbol of the Christmas season, but what are the roots of the tradition? Who first thought to bedeck a tree, to bring it inside? How and where did the local activity grow into a widespread tradition, and how has the Christmas tree traveled across time and continents?

Bernd Brunner's brief history - enriched by a selection of delightful and unusual historical illustrations - spans many centuries and cultures to illuminate the mysteries of the Christmas tree and its enduring hold on the human imagination. Tracing various European traditions from the Middle Ages forward, Brunner finds that only in the nineteenth century did Christmas trees become common in European family homes. In North America, the imported custom soon fascinated, though some found the tree not quite compatible with a Puritan mindset.

Brunner (author of Moon, Bears and The Ocean at Home) explores how the Christmas tree entered mainstream American culture and how in recent times it has become globally popular. He introduces Jacqueline Kennedy's Nutcracker Tree in the White House, trees used to celebrate the New Year in Turkey, and the world's most expensive Christmas tree, erected in Abu Dhabi. The author also considers the place of the artificial tree and the ecological dimensions of the Christmas tree trade. A book rich with anecdote and insight, Inventing the Christmas Tree will enchant a wide audience.

Bernd Brunner is a freelance writer who often explores the intersection of cultural history and the history of science in his writings. His previous books include Bears, Moon and The Ocean at Home. He divides his time between Istanbul, Turkey, and Berlin, Germany.

‘What drove people to go off into the forest, chop down a tree, decorate it?” asks Bernd Brunner in his short history of the Christmas tree. He answers with a wide-ranging exploration of the genesis of this symbol of the Christmas season.’ Juliet Gardiner, History Today (Pick of the Year)

'The decorated tree is now a standard part of most Christmas festivities. But where did the tradition originate? And why do we hang baubles and tinsel on a fir brought into our homes? Bernd Brunner, a German writer, has gone in search of some answers in this brief, beautifully illustrated, potted history of the Christmas tree… A charming gift book that should find a place under many a tree this year.' Carl Wilkinson, Financial Times

'Brunner is a deft guide… As well as delighting the enthusiast, this attractively produced little book might prove soothing to the less festively inclined as well.' Josh Raymond, Times Literary Supplement

'This tiny treasure of a book charts the history of the Christmas Tree from the mythical evergreens of Sweden to the $11 million tree erected in an Abu Dhabi hotel lobby in 2010, stopping off at Jackie Kennedy’s Nutcracker tree in the White House on the way.' Crafts Magazine

'This engaging and charming little book is a rich potpourri of information across various cultures, times and places.' Richard Ormrod, The Tablet

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