On the eve of the holiday: the Christmas tree history

On the eve of the holiday. The history of the Christmas tree in Russia

Dear Friends, the New Year is approaching, a long-awaited holiday, with a feast, joyous hustle and bustle, and gifts’ preparation. The passers’-by faces are brightened with the holiday expectation, happiness and joy.

This is one of the most beloved holidays in our country. Everyone is in a fabulous mood, feels joyful and happy, is eager to give others attention, tenderness and care! We are waiting for miracles ... And how can miracle happen without a Christmas tree?

Christmas tree, dressed up with sparkling toys and garlands, has long been considered a symbol of Christmas and New Year. It is impossible to imagine a holiday without this forest beauty.

In Russia, the first Christmas tree appeared during the Time of Troubles (1598-1613). However, this tradition was not widely spread, Christmas trees were put in the imperial and boyar (landowners) private quarters. During the reign of Peter I, conifers were installed on the eve of the holidays in Moscow, in particular, in the Sobornaya Square (Cathedral Square) of the Kremlin and in the Gostiny Dvor. After the death of Peter I, the custom was forgotten for a long time.

The first public Christmas spruce was organized in 1852 in the building of the St. Petersburg Ekateringofsky Railway Station. Installed in the hall of the station, a huge spruce "with one side adhered to the wall, and the other was decorated with painted pieces of paper". In short time, public Christmas trees were arranged in the buildings of noblemen, officers ' and merchants' Assemblies, in the clubs, theaters and other public places. Since the beginning of the 1850s, the Christmas tree festivities in the hall of the Noble Moscow Assembly became annual in Moscow. The tradition was interrupted during the First World War. Emperor Nicholas II forbade setting Christmas trees.

After the October Revolution, the prohibition was canceled, and on December 31, 1917, the first public Christmas tree was installed in the Mikhailovsky Artillery School in Petrograd.

A mandate of the Komsomol Central Committee was issued on December 29, 1935. It recommended to organize the New Year trees - "merry and without tediousness, with songs and amateur performances…”. Soon holidays for children were held throughout the country.

In 1936, the People's Commissars Council issued a decree on the public celebration of the New Year and it became one of the most important public holidays from the very beginning. The Christmas tree holiday was held in the Hall of Columns of the House of the Unions. Father Frost (Santa Claus in the USA and European countries) was a part of the festivities from the very beginning. Snegurochka (the Snow Maiden) appeared simultaneously. She was known before as a folkloric character, even in pagan mythology. In the modern times, it was remembered thanks to the play by A. Ostrovsky "The Snow Maiden" and the similar titled opera N. Rimsky-Korsakov. She was not associated with Christmas, her appearance was the original invention of the Soviet era.

In 1954, the country's main holiday tree moved to the Kremlin that was previously inaccessible to ordinary citizens. Since the 1950s, even before the first man's flight, the space theme had become one of the dominant on the New Year's holidays. Shortly before the performance started, the artists dressed in space suites or scaphandres met the children and a space rocket on which the New Year arrived, was among stagy decorations. At the very beginning, the Christmas tree was held in the Grand Kremlin Palace. A huge beautiful fir-tree was decorated in the Georgievsky Hall. Children sang and danced in a ring around this tree, various contests were held. Winter entertainments were arranged for children in the Tainitsky garden of the Moscow Kremlin: one could ride a sleigh drawn by troika (three horses), and the luckiest of the guests – could drive a sleigh drawn by reindeers. A playground with attractions and ice slides was equipped and decorated in the New Year's style. After the Kremlin Palace of Congresses (now the State Kremlin Palace) was opened in 1961, the Christmas tree moved to this building. Broadcasting was organized and detailed reports were published in the newspapers. Since then, the holiday in the Kremlin Palace is called "the main Christmas tree of the country". Moreover, since the mid-1960s, it is held in form of a fairy-tale performance. Natural fresh cut Christmas trees have been installed annually in the Sobornaya square of the Kremlin since December 1996.

The search for a suitable tree begins when summer is coming to its end. Space and helicopter survey is used to the full. The spruce should be at least 80-100 years old; the branches’ amplitude is to be not less than 15 meters. It is brought inside the Kremlin territory through the Spassky Gate that is ordinary closed for transport. After the New Year's holidays, the spruce is dismantled, and its wood is used for producing souvenirs. The Kremlin Christmas tree-

2018 will be brought from the Moscow region. It will be installed and decorated in the Sobornaya square on December 17, 2017.

The first Christmas tree toys were associated with Christian themes (figurines of angels, magicians, seraphs and cherubs). Candlesticks, sweets, fruits and nuts were also used as decorations. The top of the tree was crowned, as a rule, by an eight-pointed star (the symbol of Bethlehem star). Later, Christmas decorations from glass were brought from Germany. Russian production of glass balls and beads was established by the end of the 19th century. The history of Christmas tree decorations in Russia largely reflects the history of Russia itself: sweets, glass balls and Bethlehem star as a topper; then paper airplanes and Red Army men with a five-pointed red star as a topper on the first Soviet spruces; further, paper snowflakes and balls of burned light bulbs on the spruces of the war years; paratroopers, astronauts and clocks "five minutes to twelve" in the 1960s; bought in huge queues and difficult-to-obtain boxes of balls from the German Democratic Republic and glass tree toppers in the 1980s.

Music stands for Christmas trees are stored in the Museum Collection.