The Festival of Christmas Trees at Chesterfield parish church

The Christmas season seems to have been with us forever. Pubs and restaurants have been promoting their festive menus for months. For several weeks shops have been cluttered with seasonal promotions. And Christmas trees are springing up all over the place, in public spaces, shops and windows all over town.

The tree on the far right is sponsored by a bridalwear business: brilliantly inventive!

The link between evergreen plants, including fir trees, and mid-winter festivals pre-dates Christianity. It reflects our ancestors’ conviction that, even on the darkest of days, better times and the green shoots of spring are just around the corner.

The Christmas tradition of bringing fir trees into the home and decorating them appears to have developed in the 16th century, in the area of Europe we now know as Germany. However it didn’t catch on in the UK until the middle of the 19th century.

The sudden rise in the popularity of Christmas trees here was down to the royal family, which had historic links with Germany. These were boosted in 1841 when Queen Victoria married her German cousin Prince Albert, who had fond memories of Christmas trees from his childhood.

In the centre a tree decorated by a local mortgage broker featuring “baubles” in the shape of houses, and a silver key (presumably the key to the home you might buy with the help of their services!)

In 1848 the Illustrated London News reported enthusiastically on the Christmas trees Victoria and Albert had put up at Windsor Castle. It also featured on its front cover an illustration of a cluster of happy royals admiring their biggest and best tree. The paper was widely read in well-to-do circles in and around London, and other newspapers also picked up on its story.

It soon became widely known just what the royals were up to, and at a time when it was fashionable amongst the wealthier classes to copy the lifestyle and habits of royalty, Christmas trees became all the rage. But only, of course, amongst those sections of the population with money to acquire them and the space to display them.

Centre left is a tree by a business selling intruder alarms (the “baubles” are actually Passive Infra-Red [PIR] detectors!) The centre right tree is from a local jeweller.

In time the fashion trickled down through the social hierarchy until just about everyone in the country aspired to celebrate Our Lord’s birthday by chopping down a poor, defenceless little fir tree and disfiguring it with gaudily tasteless decorations. Bah, humbug!

* * *

Please forgive the previous paragraph… I jest, of course. In fact, Mrs P and I do rather like Christmas trees, although at Platypus Towers we make do with an artificial one to avoid the carpet being knee-deep in pine needles before Twelfth Night. So to get into the Christmas spirit, a couple of weeks ago we took a trip to the north of our home county of Derbyshire to visit the Festival of Christmas Trees at the parish church of St Mary and All Saints in Chesterfield.

Not all trees are from businesses. Second from the left is a tree presented by BANA (British Acoustic Neuroma Association) and second from the right is one from Chesterfield Panthers Rugby Club.

We discovered that the church was playing host to around 120 Christmas trees donated and decorated by local businesses, community organisations, service providers and sports clubs. Of course, the motivation of those providing the trees wasn’t entirely selfless: promotion of their products, services and causes appeared to be the name of the game in most cases.

But it doesn’t pay to be churlish. Plenty of folk just like us were also wandering happily through the church that Thursday morning, admiring the imagination and inventiveness of the people behind the various Christmas tree creations. It’s been a difficult year for most of us, although perhaps not quite as grim as 2020, and the Festival of Christmas Trees felt like a good attempt to raise community spirits, to bring people together and to encourage everyone to look forward to more cheerful times ahead. I’m pleased we made the effort to attend.

A local timber merchant celebrates the crooked spire of St Mary and All Saints church

12 comments

  1. The June Journal · December 8

    These Christmas trees are so beautiful. Your two blogs of Chesterfield, including the previous of crooked spire are very interesting. Here we have another Chesterfield on the western suburb of St. Louis. I sometimes drive there (2 hours away). Thank you for sharing the amazing history of Chesterfield UK with us!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 9

      I guess that the person who named the St Louis town must have had some connection with Chesterfield in the UK…perhaps he was born there, maybe even baptised in the church of the crooked spire?!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. tanjabrittonwriter · December 9

    Even before I read your concluding lines I thought that the numerous and multifarious trees were a good way to dispel winter (and Covid) gloom. I’m glad you and Mrs. P were able to take away with you some of the cheer. 🎄

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Laurie Graves · December 9

    Fun leaning tree! A joyful way to celebrate the season. It certainly has been a hard two years. We need every bit of joy we can find.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 9

      Absolutely. The Covid situation is looking grim right now, so temporary distractions like Chesterfield’s Christmas trees are most welcome.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. ThoughtsBecomeWords · December 9

    Wow, all brilliant!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Adele Brand · December 19

    The crooked tree made me smile. I ended up in Chesterfield in September and took time to ponder – as I suppose most visitors do – the lean of the church spire.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 20

      Locals tend to take it for granted, but you can often see visitors to the town staring up at the spire wearing slightly puzzled expressions that say “how did that happen?” and “why doesn’t it fall down?” and even “I hope I’m not standing anywhere near here when it finally collapses!”

      Liked by 1 person

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