The upside down tree at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport has been a hit with guests, boasting hand-painted travel-themed ornaments. Photo courtesy of Fairmont Vancouver Airport hotel

Topsy turvy tree trend has Catholic roots

By 
  • December 26, 2017
A Catholic tradition dating back to the seventh century has been turning heads this holiday season.

While out Christmas shopping, you may have noticed a few unusual Christmas trees — some pink trees, some purple … or how about a tree suspended upside-down from the ceiling? Shops, restaurants and high-end hotels around the world have been embracing the inverted tree trend as part of their holiday decor.

The trend starter? Well, that depends on whose history to believe, but there’s little doubt that St. Boniface, the English martyr from the seventh century, had a hand in the business.

This is the second year that the Fairmont Vancouver Airport hotel has put up an inverted artificial Christmas tree. It is suspended from the ceiling and decorated with hand-painted ornaments — blue and silver globes, planes and miniature Canadian passports. The gifts are also secured to the ceiling.

“People think it’s a lot of fun,” said Kate Francois, marketing and public relations manager for the Fairmont Vancouver Airport hotel. “We’ve had a lot of returning guests from last year who tell us that they were looking forward to seeing our tree again. We also get a lot of travellers who aren’t staying with us coming through just to get a photo.”

Inverted trees are popping up, or rather down, across the globe. In London, England, Claridge’s, a five-star hotel in the swanky Mayfair neighbourhood, has a massive upside down tree adjacent to their spiral staircase. In Toronto’s theatre district, Ricarda’s, a Mediterranean restaurant, is showcasing an artificial tree that is also, you guessed it, upside down.

The origins of the first upside down Christmas tree are as diverse as the trees themselves. In 19th-century England, poor families with small homes hung their trees from the rafters to save on floor space.

The earliest story of an upside down tree dates back to St. Boniface and his missions to Germany and Friesland (present day Netherlands). While in Germany on Christmas Eve, St. Boniface got word of a group of pagans about to sacrifice a young man to Thor, the Norse God of storms.

As the story goes, Boniface interfered just in time. He rescued the man and chopped down the tree. When a fir tree grew back in its place, he used the triangle shape to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagans.

By the 12th century, trees were hung upside down at Christmas time because the shape resembled Christ being crucified.

Francois and many other Fairmont staff members were unaware of the inverted tree trend’s origins until recently.

“We wanted to create a focal point in the lobby and save on space,” said Francois. “It wasn’t until recently that we learned its origin.”

For your home, prices for an inverted Christmas tree (in a floor stand) range from $70 for a basic three-foot model up to $1,300 for an impressive seven-foot pre-lit model.

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