Here’s why some Christmas trees are upside-down

Holidays

(NEXSTAR) – With Christmas just a few days away, you likely already have your holiday tree up and decorated. But do you have it hanging from your ceiling?

It’s a trend that has been catching steam in recent years. In 2018, pop star Ariana Grande caught the attention of her Instagram followers by hanging her 2018 Christmas tree from the ceiling. In more recent years, videos tagged with #UpsideDownChristmasTree have amassed over 8.6 million views on TikTok.

It’s not just a trend among homeowners, either. According to lifestyle website The Spruce, retailers have been using upside-down holiday trees to put more ornaments at the eye level of shoppers. 

The upside down Christmas tree found in the Milwaukee Public Museum’s European Village exhibit. (Image provided by Milwaukee Public Museum.)

Hanging Christmas trees from the ceiling rather than standing them upright on the floor is more than just a fad. An upside-down Christmas tree, bedecked with ornaments representing the Christmas traditions of various European countries, has been part of the Milwaukee Public Museum’s European Village exhibit for over 37 years.

Throughout history, evergreen plants like fir, balsam, and holly have been used during winter celebrations by many cultures, and the practice predates Christianity, according to Jackie Schweitzer, Collection Manager for the Milwaukee Public Museum’s History Department. Evergreens were commonly used to symbolize fertility, renewal and everlasting life, which were later adopted by Christians in their celebrations.

The origins of turning the tree upside-down, though, have their roots in folklore, Schweitzer explains. It is often attributed to St. Boniface, a Benedictine monk who led a Catholic mission to Germany and central Europe in the 7th century AD. He is recorded to have used the fir tree, sometimes upside-down, to symbolize the Holy Trinity. 

A Polish tradition, again predating Christianity, involved decorating the top or a branch of a fir or spruce tree that was hung from the ceiling. It was decorated with apples, sweets, eggshells and ribbon, according to the Polish American Journal

By the 12th century, upside-down trees, meant to resemble Jesus Christ being crucified, were found in homes throughout northern and central Europe, according to the Catholic Register. And in the 19th century, some European families hung the Christmas tree from the rafters as a way to save space in their homes, according to The Spruce.

If you’re hoping to spruce up your Christmas tree by turning it on its top, it goes without saying that you should be cautious about hanging it, and always consult a professional. Not every ceiling can support the weight of a real (or even a fake) tree, and there’s always the added danger of decorations, ornaments or branches crashing down during the holiday season.

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