You know it’s already the holiday season when colorful Christmas decorations are all up basically everywhere. Apart from the parol, the traditional Pinoy decor, the centerpiece would always be the Christmas tree, decked with all things good.
I’ve always been fascinated with the awe-inspiring tree, especially every time I attended tree lighting events in different hotels and other establishments because they really do put a lot of effort and time into putting together a Christmas tree and holiday decors that embody their brands. Take, for instance, the sustainable 16-foot tall Christmas tree of Conrad Manila and the Filipiniana-themed Christmas Tree of Hilton Manila.
But did you know that the Christmas tree has a really interesting history? In fact, there are several myths surrounding this infamous tree.
A legend about Martin Luther, the historical figure who catalyzed the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, said that he believed that pine trees symbolized the goodness of God.
There was also the story of St. Boniface, an English Benedictine monk. It even has several versions. One version that persisted in the 15th century tells that St. Boniface thwarted the pagan ritual of sacrificing a human by cutting down the oak tree. A fir tree grew where the oak tree used to be; it eventually became a symbol of eternal truth.
In another version, the story went that St. Boniface cut down the new fir tree and hung it upside down, with an apple wedged on the “top”; believed to represent the Holy Trinity.
History has it that the modern Christmas tree that we know today started in Germany. It started with a theater guild in 1419. The group performed Paradise Plays, a medieval play to celebrate the religious feast day of Adam and Eve, which fell on Christmas Eve (December 24).
One of their main props was the paradise tree, made from fir tree with apples hanging on its branches, symbolizing the tree of knowledge in the bible story of Adam and Eve.
It was so prominent and eye-catching that the German people who have seen it started setting up paradise trees in their homes on Adam and Eve’s feast day. They are decorated with wafers and candles, symbolizing the Eucharistic host and Christ being the light of the world, respectively. Later, wafers were replaced by cookies.
Back then, they would put up the tree alongside the Christmas pyramid, triangular wooden shelves where they put figurines and often decorated with evergreens, candles, and a star. By the 16th century, this tradition evolved. The people started to merge the Christmas pyramid and the paradise tree, and so the Christmas tree was born.
While the modern Christmas tree seems quite secular and replete with capitalism, the original Christmas has always been associated with religious symbolism.
In ancient Egypt, China and Israel, evergreen means eternal life. It was also used to scare away bad spirits; hence, it was often placed at the entrance of the house or barns.
German-born Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, introduced the Christmas tree in Egland in the early 19th century. Soon, the London tons started putting up the tree in their halls, salon and parlor, decorated with toys, small gifts, candles, candies, and fancy cakes tied on ribbons and paper chains and hung on the branches.
Due to migration, explorations, and trades, the Christmas tree tradition was introduced to different parts of the world. German settlers moved to North American, and eventually to the rest of Europe. Western missionaries brought it to China and Japan in 19th century.
Tales of two trees
Tree lighting events have filled up my calendars in recent weeks. Invitations to these holiday events have been dropping to my email year after year. It has become a tradition, really.
There was that fun and hip tree-lighting event at Hilton Manila, located at Newport World Resorts. Sampling Christmas feasts, dancing to the ‘80s and ‘90s songs played by a wonderful band, drinking good wines, and chatting with media friends was my perfect idea of ushering the holiday spirit.
“Our team has prepared an array of culinary surprises, bespoke staycation packages, and wondrous revelries best shared with the whole family including your furry friends. We are committed to sharing the light and warmth of heartfelt hospitality as we look forward to what’s to come in the New Year, together as one,” said Hilton Manila general manager John Lucas.
Christmas Staycations at Hilton Manila include a luxurious stay at pet-friendly guest rooms, buffet breakfast for two, special savings at Kusina Sea Kitchens, and early check-in or late check-out (subject to availability).
Splendid Spreads, delicately created by executive chef Ryan Hong and his culinary team, presents sumptuous Bundles – Holiday, Chinese, Western, or Filipino – until December 31. You can also try holiday dining options at Kusina Sea Kitchens and Hua Yuan Brasserie Chinoise.
Bring home some holiday goodies with their Christmas Hampers: Pag-asa, Pangarap, and Paggunita that celebrate local artisans and authentic Filipino flavors. Each handwoven abaca and/or water lily basket or handmade Capiz box is filled to the brim with mouthwatering goodies such as traditional fruit cake, assorted pralines, halo-halo stollen bread, among others.
Meanwhile, Conrad Manila ushers the “Season of Splendor’ with a much more solemn tree lighting, with Conrad general manager Fabio Berto, SM Hotels and Conventions Corporation (SMHCC) president Elizabeth T. Sy, SMHCC executive vice president Peggy Angeles, SM Prime Holdings, Inc. Chairman Hans T. Sy, Pasay City mayor Imelda ‘Emi’ Calixto-Rubiano, and Rep. Antonino Calixto.
Young Voices of the Philippines serenaded the guests, with an inspiring musical performance by the Philippine Youth Symphonic Band. After the musical feast, executive chef Warren Brown delighted our palate with festive cocktails at the C Lounge.
“This year, we hope to celebrate a deeper meaning of the holidays in remembrance and observance of family, faith and how joyously blessed we are through worry-free moments that you can enjoy with the whole family at Conrad Manila,” shares Berto.
At Brasserie on 3, begin your unforgettable Christmas feast with a warm Tsokolate de Batirol and followed by sustainably-sourced Filipino and Western holiday favorites such as turkey and ham, yule log and fruit cakes, Stollen bread, among others.
China Blue by Jereme Leung offers an indulgent nine-course set menu, dubbed Treasures of the Orient, well-curated by executive Chinese chef Eng Yew Khor, featuring premium roasted duck, catch-of-the-day seafood, and succulent lobsters, among others.
Bru Coffee Bar transforms into a life-size gingerbread house brimming with homemade goodies and well-crafted Christmas Hampers, filled with goodies such as pralines, ube langka Stollen bread, Christmas cookies, and Gingerbread man.
Truly, nothing is better than the feeling when the Christmas tree is up and so lit. Well, that is until the bored cats get in the way and knock it over.