Putting Up the Christmas Tree
Since I was a little girl, the 8th of December has always been the day when I knew Christmas was just around the corner. You might be wondering what is so special about this date. What does it have to do with Christmas? Well, it has everything to do with Christmas! In Argentina, the 8th of December is a national holiday called the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It is also the official date when we put up the Christmas tree (or, as we call it, "el arbolito de navidad"). Having a day off to decorate for Christmas is as amazing and as magical as it sounds. But this date wasn't chosen at random. The story of why we do it on the 8th is so rich and full of myths and wonders that I have to share it with you.
According to legend, the actual tradition of putting up a Christmas tree in Argentina started in 1807, when an Irish immigrant decorated a pine tree on December 8 in a public park following the customs of his country. The Irish can trace this custom back to 1200 BC, when the Celtics would decorate a tree that represented the Yggdrasil (a mythical tree that holds up the universe) to honor Frey, the god of the sun and fertility. Another possible reason why we put up Christmas trees is attributed to Martin Luther. One day, while strolling through the forest, he was struck by the beauty of the lights reflected by the stars on the trees and decided to take a tree branch home.
In my family, putting up the Christmas tree has always been a time for us to come together and have fun. We like to mix it up every once in a while and make what we call "arbolitos raros" (weird trees). These Christmas trees are not real trees at all. Instead, we make them! In the pictures below, you can see how we made a tree out of a wooden staircase and some pieces of wood. This year's tree is made out of rusty wires. We added in some homemade decorations to keep up with the style.
Another fun fact about Christmas celebrations here in Argentina is that we open presents at midnight on Christmas Eve. So, on the 24th, we make a huge family dinner that involves lots of delicious foods like "pan dulce," a white bread filled with nuts and dried fruits, and "vitel toné" or, in Italian, "vitello tonnato," which is a cold meat dish with a mayonnaise and tuna sauce. This is always a Christmas favorite!
But it is when the clock strikes midnight that the real magic begins. The first magical moment is the Christmas toast, marked by the sound of champagne glasses clinking together. This is the perfect time to hug your family members and tell them how much you love them. The second magical moment occurs when we go outside to watch the fireworks that cover the skies with color and lights. And the last one is the moment that as a kid you fought to stay awake for (which let me tell you wasn't an easy task)—the opening of the Christmas presents! They suddenly and magically appear under the Christmas tree! When did that happen? How did I miss Santa? What a treat that was, and still is, watching all your family happily opening presents between laughs and screams of joy (especially from the little ones). This is the best feeling in the world.
Taking Down the Christmas Tree
Now, you might be thinking that if we have a day to put up the Christmas tree, we might also have a day to take it down. And that is exactly correct! We put away the Christmas tree and all the decorations the day after January 6, which is "El Día de los Reyes Magos" (Epiphany or Three Kings' Day). I won't go into too much detail about what this holiday entails, but you must know it involves kings, camels, shoes, grass, water, and more presents!
Lula (Motion Designer, ESL Library)
- put up: to build or set up
- attributed to: named or credited as the source
- rusty: covered in a reddish-brown coating (iron) due to air/moisture
- toast: to celebrate with words and a drink
- take down: to remove something that was previously on display
- put away: to put in a storage area for use at another time
Leave a Comment
What about you? Do you have any traditions for putting up the Christmas tree? How do you decorate it? When do you take it down and put it away? Have you ever made an unconventional Christmas tree?
How do you celebrate Christmas Eve? Do you enjoy any traditional Christmas food? Please tell us where you are from and share your holiday traditions with us!