The winter holidays are a time for traditions and for manifesting outrage over trend and design choices that people feel disrespect those traditions. Because if anything truly says “Merry Christmas” in 2017, it’s a boycott. On social media, performative hashtag anger over a paper cup with potential lesbian overtones gets just as much screen time as pics of people paying homage to Grandma with her cookie recipe.
Thus far, the traditional tree – be it Noble, Fraser, or Douglas fir – has escaped this lunacy unscathed. But, not anymore, friends. Not anymore.
For 2017, retail designers and home decorators are taking a fresh approach to decorating by standing their trees on end. The upside-down holiday tree looks to be the hottest decorating fad of the year, and despite visual design types and trendsetters loving it, the rest of the internet is less enthusiastic.
Though there’s a group of people who aren’t shy about declaring the topsy turvy tree an affront on the holiday, it’s not even new. Take that, suckers. According to NPR, as early as the Middle Ages, people were hanging fir trees upside down. The first tilted tannenbaum on record dates back to the 1500s at Riga, Latvia, and they are common among Slavic groups to this day.
Poles in southern Poland (areas like Podhale, Silesia, Sącz region and Kraków) toss a spruce on the ceiling in the center of their home and use extra boughs to frame doorways and walls. These trees are called sad, podłaz or podłazniczek, and they get decorated with a ton of stuff like nuts, fruits, ribbons, sweets in shiny paper, straw, and pine cones painted gold. But, increasing westernization did curb this tradition to a large extent as Big Christmas Tree promoted a traditional presentation.
According to legend, the upside-down tree couldn’t be more pro-Christmas values. When he saw pagans revering an oak tree in 7th-century Germany, England’s St. Boniface was outraged. Face red and breaths coming in angry bursts, he cut the tree down, but a fir tree grew back in its place. He declared the triangle shape a representation of the Holy Trinity of God. Because of this, pagans who converted to Christianity started to revere the fir as God’s Trinity Tree.
By the 12th-century, people in Eastern and Central Europe were hanging it by the base as a representation of Christianity. Now, however, people think positioning the tree with the pinnacle pointing to heaven is the best way to represent piety and reverence, and any deviation from this is being met with defensiveness and skepticism.
There are different theories about the resurrection of this design choice. There are the Stranger Things conspiracy theorists who think the show has inspired the design craze. But, it likely has a lot more to do with the needs of commerce. Retailers began using trees oriented in reverse in the early 2000s because the limbs better hold ornaments without heavy bottom branches to swallow them up, which means more can be displayed. Plus, they leave increased floor space for extra stock and freedom of customer movement.