Dec 8

Christmas Tree Day

Pinecone
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Pinecones
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"O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree
How lovely are thy branches
O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree
How lovely are thy branches."

~ Traditional

The modern custom of decorated Christmas trees has origins in western Germany. A popular German medieval play about Adam and Eve featured a "paradise tree," a fir tree hung with apples that represented the Garden of Eden. Germans began putting paradise trees up in their homes on Christmas Eve, the religious feast day of Adam and Eve. Besides apples, they decorated their trees with wafers, and then cookies, to symbolize Holy Communion, and added candles symbolizing Christ as the light of the world.   ​ Christmas trees gained in popularity around the English-speaking world - including in the United States - with the release of a sketch of Queen Victoria and her family next to a Christmas tree in their home in the 1840s, a custom introduced by Victoria's husband, Prince Albert. 

Christmas Tree Day marks the day and period around which many people choose to decorate trees with lights and ornaments, both indoors and out.

The members of the pine family (pines, spruces, firs, cedars, larches, etc...) are popular choices for Christmas trees and for decorations associated with winter festivals predating the common era.

 

The pines have cones that are imbricate (with scales overlapping each other like fish scales). The scales are spirally arranged in Fibonacci number ratios.

Because of their widespread occurrence, conifer cones have been a traditional part of the arts and crafts of cultures where conifers are common. Examples of their use includes seasonal wreaths and decorations, fire starters, bird feeders, toys, etc. An intriguing fact about pine cones is that they open and close based on their level of dryness.

Because of this you can use some species of pine cones to predict the weather.  Pinecones are the procreative parts of pine trees. Male versions produce pollen, and pollenated female forms yield seeds. Under dry conditions, the outer parts of the cones' scales dry more than the inner parts, causing the cone to open as dry, calm weather provide a better environment for seed dispersal.

 

In wet weather, the scales absorb moisture and swell shut, shielding the seeds until dryer days.  Pinecones continue to exhibit this behavior even off the tree.

By Carol A.L. Martin, this tartan uses the blues and greens of the tree's needles with interspersed colours of the pine cones.

 

For a great science project to use a standing pinecone as a hygrometer to measure humidity levels, click the pinecones!

Officially registered tartan graphics on this site courtesy of The Scottish Tartans Authority.  Other tartans from talented tartan artists may also be featured.

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