For today, the prompt was simply “tree,” which might definitely imply a Christmas tree for some this time of year. My mind went immediately to the song, O Christmas Tree, not because I particularly love it, but because I think I’ve already heard it a hundred times while shopping this season. Since my style is about the details and my sketchbook is small, we have a bit of branch rather than an entire tree. This works well with the song, as it repeats the phrase “how lovely are thy branches” over and over again ad nauseum. There are other versions that don’t mention branches at all and say, “Thy leaves are so unchanging” because saying needles in a Christmas song would be weird. Some versions reintroduce the lyrics “O Tannebaum” from the original German folk song, which simply refers to a fir tree, and wasn’t meant to be a Christmas carol at all.
This is one of those songs that was very popular for kids when I was growing up, right along with Jingle Bells. The intense repetition, that drives me crazy as an adult, made it much easier for kids to learn. Of course, most of us grew up proudly thinking we could speak at least one German word and that Tannebaum meant Christmas Tree, which it doesn’t. Actually, the literal translations are rather amusing in English as you would start your song with “O Fir Tree” and end it with an awkward phrase, that you should never utter at your work Christmas party, of “Your dress wants to teach me something!” Luckily, instead of this, you’ll hear impromptu carolers in your local bar just going on and on about the branches. Mostly because nobody can ever remember all of the lyrics to this song.
The first verse of this song appeared in 1820 via August Zarnack’s Weisenbuch zu den Volksliedern fur Volkschulehn. Many think he borrowed from an ancient ode to a fir tree, as singing to fir trees has apparently been around for a very long time. The ancient version is even more perplexing in literal translation as you start by needlessly taunting the tree with, “you’re wearing a big twig!” and later show your remorse by soulfully closing with, “So, I am strong and unclean.” Though if these had been the actual lyrics, I’m sure many more people would have remembered them. Still, this song is considered a holiday classic and one you’ll find groups of people still singing today. Stumbling and mumbling past the first verse, then waiting to boldly and loudly chime back in on the only bit they know with certainty: “O Christmas Tree!, O Christmas Tree!”
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20 thoughts on “O Christmas Tree”
I’m so impressed by your rendering of the gloss of the bauble and the reflections in its surface. I also chuckled at the Tanenbaum translation. You always make me smile with your art and words.
Thanks, Laura! 😃💕 So glad you liked this one… I had to drop in a shiny thing. I was getting antsy. hehe… love painting those!
I love your work alot…. enjoy reading and your art is simply amazing..avid follower of your blog. Once i wrote on tree.. i thought i should share with you as m new to all this blogging and writing.. :). My link..
Aww thanks so much! 😃💕 Glad you enjoy Doodlewash! And your words on trees are lovely!
That’s a great little doodlewash. It must have taken you ages to paint all the green needles, and I really like the shadows of the needles. Great story about the Christmas Tree song, too!
Awww thanks so much, Georgie! 😃💕 Hehe… glad it looks like it took ages! Yay! I never have ages though so this was still done in my little hour. Just don’t look too close… lots of fast faking things in! 😊
Ha ha, even though I lived in Germany for some years and heard O Tannenbaum so many times I didn’t know any of this. Lovely painting too, Charlie.
Thanks, Michael! 😃 hehe… yeah… I was curious about the lyrics and my search just kept getting weirder! Lol
This would be perfect for a card Charlie. You’ve caught the holiday spirit once again. (K)
Thanks so much, Kerfe!! 😃💕
Oh so pretty, Charlie!!! Everything about this painting is perfect! I agree- this would make a wonderful Christmas card!!!
Thanks, Linda! 😃💕 I’m definitely starting to get into the Christmas spirit now! Just a week to go!
O Doodlewash, O Doodlewash! And so on 😉 Great job! Actually – thankfully – I haven’t heard this at all this season, but yes, it was a staple of the school Christmas concert. I don’t remember the other verses but I recall they were far more interesting than that chorus, though that was before these translations came into play!
Thanks, Jacob! 😃 Yeah… it’s totally weird… I remembered the full song being more interesting, but it’s not really. Just a bunch of repition and nobody can agree on a definitive version! hehe… much for fun in literal translation for sure! lol
I don’t know how you managed to make it snow on the tablet image…very festive!!!
hehe… all credit goes to WordPress for the snow. They allow you to turn it on this month each year. Super fun! I love it!
Great painting – just a bit of branch is perfect for that ornament. But I love the story of “O Tannenbaum.” Who knew? Taunting trees, teaching dresses (??!). Wow. My boyfriend always morphs the Canadian national anthem into the melody of “O Christmas Tree.” No, he doesn’t realize they are different melodies. I don’t tell him because it makes me smile. (We go to a lot of hockey games, so we hear the Canadian anthem frequently.)
Thanks so much, Ellie! 😃💕 Yeah, it’s quite an interesting little song! And catchy… I can see why your boyfriend chooses it for Canada! Yeah, no need to inform him of the melody difference! Lol Too fun!
A little green sprig in winter, a big shiny bulb when the weather is gray, and a goofy song when our arthritis acts up. Perfect. Oh Blissmus Tree, Oh Blissmus Tree – that’s right, isn’t it?
Haha! That’s totally right! I love it! I’m going to sing it that way from now on! 😃💕