Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

O Christmas Tree

German Christmas Song By Ernst Anschütz

O Tannenbaum (German: O Fir Tree, English: O Christmas Tree) is a German Christmas song. Based on a traditional folk song which was unrelated to Christmas, it became associated with the traditional Christmas tree by the middle of the 19th century and sung as a Christmas carol.

The modern lyrics were written in 1824, by the Leipzig organist, teacher and composer Ernst Anschütz. A Tannenbaum is a fir tree. The lyrics do not actually refer to Christmas, or describe a decorated Christmas tree. Instead, they refer to the fir's evergreen quality as a symbol of constancy and faithfulness.

Anschütz based his text on a 16th-century Silesian folk song by Melchior Franck, "Ach Tannenbaum". August Zarnack in 1819 wrote a tragic love song inspired by this folk song, taking the evergreen, "faithful" fir tree as contrasting with a faithless lover. The folk song first became associated with Christmas with Anschütz, who added two verses of his own to the first, traditional verse.

The custom of the Christmas tree developed in the course of the 19th century, and the song came to be seen as a Christmas carol. Anschütz's version still had treu (true, faithful) as the adjective describing the fir's leaves (needles), harking back to the contrast to the faithless maiden of the folk song. This was changed to grün (green) at some point in the 20th century, after the song had come to be associated with Christmas.

The tune is an old folk tune attested in the 16th century. It is also known as the tune of "Es lebe hoch der Zimmermannsgeselle" and of "Lauriger Horatius".

The tune has also been used (as a contrafactum) to carry other texts on many occasions. Some notable uses include:

"The Red Flag", anthem of the British and Irish Labour Parties
Florida-"Florida, My Florida" - former state song
Maryland-"Maryland, My Maryland" - official state song
Michigan-"Michigan, My Michigan" - widely believed to be the official state song
Iowa-"The Song of Iowa" - official state song
The College of the Holy Cross's alma mater is sung to the tune of "O Tannenbaum".
When traveling by bus, schoolchildren in Sweden sing "En busschaufför" (Swedish: "a bus driver") or "Vår busschaufför" ("Our bus driver") to the melody.
St. Bonaventure University Alma Mater, "With Myrtle Wreath We'll Deck Thy Brow"
"Scout Vespers", used by the Boy Scouts of America, is sung to the melody

Related Scottish Country Dances

Christmas Tree (Barlow)
Christmas Tree (Roberts)
Christmas Tree (Skelton)

O Tannenbaum - German Lyrics By August Zarnack c. 1819

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
Wie treu sind deine Blätter!
Du grünst nicht nur zur Sommerzeit,
Nein auch im Winter, wenn es schneit.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
Wie treu sind deine Blätter!

O Mägdelein, o Mägdelein,
Wie falsch ist dein Gemüte!
Du schwurst mir Treu in meinem Glück,
Nun arm ich bin, gehst du zurück.
O Mägdelein, o Mägdelein,
Wie falsch ist dein Gemüte!

Die Nachtigall
Nahmst du dir zum Exempel.
Sie bleibt so lang der Sommer lacht,
Im Herbst sie sich von dannen macht.
Die Nachtigall, die Nachtigall,
Nahmst du dir zum Exempel.

Der Bach im Thal
Ist deiner Falschheit Spiegel.
Er strömt allein, wenn Regen fließt,
Bei Dürr er bald den Quell verschließt.
Der Bach im Thal, der Bach im Thal
Ist deiner Falschheit Spiegel.


O Tannenbaum - German Lyrics By Ernst Anschütz c. 1824

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
Wie treu sind deine Blätter!
Du grünst nicht nur zur Sommerzeit,
Nein, auch im Winter, wenn es schneit.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
Wie treu sind deine Blätter!

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!
Wie oft hat nicht zur Weihnachtszeit
Ein Baum von dir mich hoch erfreut!
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
Dein Kleid will mich was lehren:
Die Hoffnung und Beständigkeit
Gibt Mut und Kraft zu jeder Zeit!
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
Dein Kleid will mich was lehren!


O Christmas Tree - An English Translation By John Rutter c. ?

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,
How faithfully you blossom!
Through summer's heat and winter's chill
Your leaves are green and blooming still.
O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,
How faithfully you blossom!

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,
With what delight I see you!
When winter days are dark and drear
You bring us hope for all the year.
O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,
With what delight I see you!

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,
You bear a joyful message:
That faith and hope shall ever bloom
To bring us light in winter's gloom.
O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,
You bear a joyful message


O Christmas Tree - Another English Translation c.1970s?

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your branches green delight us!
They are green when summer days are bright,
They are green when winter snow is white.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your branches green delight us!

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
You give us so much pleasure!
How oft at Christmas tide the sight,
O green fir tree, gives us delight!
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
You give us so much pleasure!

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
Forever true your colour.
Your boughs so green in summertime
Stay bravely green in wintertime.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
Forever true your colour.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
You fill my heart with music.
Reminding me on Christmas Day
To think of you and then be gay.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
You fill my heart with music.


O Christmas Tree - Another English Translation c. 1910

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
How are thy leaves so verdant!
Not only in the summertime,
But even in winter is thy prime.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How are thy leaves so verdant!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure dost thou bring me!
For ev'ry year the Christmas tree,
Brings to us all both joy and glee.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure dost thou bring me!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are thy branches!
Not only green when summer's here
But in the coldest time of year.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are thy branches!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How sturdy God hath made thee!
Thou bidd'st us all place faithfully
Our trust in God, unchangingly!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How sturdy God hath made thee!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!
Each bough doth hold its tiny light,
That makes each toy to sparkle bright.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!


O Christmas Tree Song Video

O Christmas Tree Song - Information Video
Der Tannenbaum 1824 - O Christmas Tree Image
Der Tannenbaum 1824 - O Christmas Tree


Dance information licensed under this Creative Commons Licence.
Text from this original O Tannenbaum article on Wikisource.
Text from this original O Tannenbaum - Zarnack article on Wikisource.
Image copyright (cropped, combined) Der Tannenbaum 1824 I under this Creative Commons Licence.
Image copyright (cropped, combined) Der Tannenbaum 1824 II under this Creative Commons Licence.

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