Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Oh Tannenbaum

Many folks have been led to think that a Tannenbaum means "Christmas Tree."  It does not.  A Tannenbaum is a fir tree, an evergreen.  Period.  In 1824, musician Ernest Anshutz wrote the song, Oh Tannenbaum, based on Joachim Zarnack's tragic love story.  Zarnack's work was based on something even earlier from Germanic folklore.  In the song/story, a fir tree's symbolic traits of consistency, steadfastness, and fidelity are compared to a cheating spouse/lover.  From its origins, it had nothing to do with Christmas, but it was picked up and used as a Christmas song after Anshutz passed on.  It appears that Christianity wanted the fir tree to be a symbol that pointed the way to heaven and Christ, in addition to the heathen virtues of consistency, steadfastness, and fidelity.  Here Pilgrim, is something else for you to chew on.  

The German holiday greeting, Frohliche Weihnachten und ein Gluckliches Neues Jahr generally is translated as, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  However, that is not entirely correct; the error, I think, lies in the first two words.  Frohliche does translate like "merry or happy."  But Weihnachten does not directly translate as "Christmas," but rather Holy Nights, the latter referring to the  ancient twelve days of Yule.  

This Yule, as you deck your halls, hang the holly, and wipe clean your wassailing bowl, give thought to the consistency, steadfastness, and fidelity of the humble fir tree.

                                             Copyright @2015/2016 Terry Unger     


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