Christmas is a holiday that is full of traditions, though some are less well-known than others. In the mid 2000s, in a revival of a Catholic tradition that began in the Middle Ages, people began incorporating upside-down Christmas trees into their celebrations.
The Christmas tree was first used by Saint Bonafice of Devonshire in the seventh century to explain the holy trinity to pagans. The Christmas tree was originally hung upside down so that pagans knew the tree was not simply a floral decoration but was instead a symbol of Christianity. By the 12th century, Christians across Europe were customarily hanging their tree upside down. Eventually, the tradition was replaced with the upright Christmas tree, so that the tree pointed toward heaven.
Misconceptions of the Original Trend
As the tree tradition flipped, some countries in Europe maintained the upside-down approach. Eventually, Christians unfamiliar with the upside-down tree began to think the trend was sacrilege and represented anti-Christmas sentiments. Because of this misconception, some non-Christians use the symbol of the upside-down Christmas tree the same way they use the symbol of the upside-down cross -- which was originally symbolic of Saint Peter's cross -- as an anti-Christ symbol.
Revival of the Original Trend
In the mid 2000s, the upside-down Christmas tree trend became popular again. However, few believe it had much to do with history or a revival of Christian ideas and symbolism. Edward O-Donnell, an expert on Christmas traditions, explained that the upside-down Christmas tree most likely became a trend again because it seemed nontraditional. An upside-down tree looks bizarre in the home and could be considered "edgy" and appeal to non-Christians who celebrate Christmas.
Christmas Tree Symbolism
The Christmas tree has been used to symbolize several Christian concepts. The triangular shape of the tree was originally used to symbolize the three points of the holy trinity. Because fir trees remained lush during the winter, while many other types of trees lost their leaves or died, the fir tree began to symbolize the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. Eventually, people started decorating the tree with apples and white wafers taken during Communion. Because of these decorations, the Christmas tree represented both the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge.
- San Diego Union-Tribune; Upside-Down Christmas Trees Become Hot-Selling Trend in Holiday Decorating; Matt Sedensky; November 2005
- USA Today; Fake Trees Turn Christmas on its Head; Craig Wilson; November 2005
- Eldrbarry; Legends of the First Christmas Trees; Barry McWilliams; 2001
- Christmas Carnivals; History of the Upside Down Christmas Tree; 2011