O Tannenbaum is a German Christmas carol that went around the world.
But it took the 300 years until the Christmas song of praise to the Christmas tree began its triumph.
A first version was already provided by the Protestant composer Melchior Franck in the 16th century with the Silesian folk song Ach Tannenbaum, which was widely used in various variations and different dialects.
The theme of the Christmas tree and its evergreen branches has been taken up several times. However, it was not until the second half of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century that the Christmas tree entered the Biedermeier living rooms as a Christmas tree and became an integral part of the Christmas party.
Thus, the thought of the evergreen power of the fir continued to become more conscious of the people and poets used this image as a symbol.
So also in 1819 the poet Joachim August Zarnack, who used the evergreen tree as a symbol of stability and in the following lines of his poem sang the instability and infidelity of a girl.
It was a song about disappointed love in which the evergreen of the needles is a symbol of fidelity (see O Tannenbaum).
This love song inspired the Leipzig teacher Ernst Anschütz. For his own musical school hymn book, he completed in 1824 the first verse of Zarnack by two more with reference to the birth of the Christ child.
He used the same tune that Zarnack had written in his poem.
It comes from an old crafting song Long live the carpenter’s journeyman which is also known since the 16th century.
With the increasingly popular custom of the decorated Christmas tree, the song about the Christmas fir-tree became known.
With increasing prominence then also a text change sneaked in, which could however finally prevail only after the Second World War.
For Zarnack and also Anschütz the second line of the first verse was „how faithful are your leaves“. Towards the end of the 19th century, however, came the variant „how green are your leaves“, which initially could not prevail, but today is the common variant.
The catchy melody and the simple structure invited early on for adaptation and recirculation.
Thus, in 1843, in the songs of a political day-watchman of the Vormärz poet Ernst Ortlepp (1800-1864), there is an O oak tree that alluded to the situation in the German Reich.
To this day, new parodies of the tune of O Tannenbaum, which in the rarest cases have something to do with Christmas, have been created and created over and over again.
But O Tannenbaum also enjoys great popularity abroad. As early as 1861, the melody of the poem Maryland, My Maryland was underlayed by James Ryder Randall (1839-1908) and used as a propaganda song in the Civil War.
In 1939, Maryland, My Maryland was even the official State Song of the State of Maryland.
A political parody against Taliban, O Taliban, took place in the US in the fall of 2001, which was quickly spreading on the Internet.
But the German original text was also considered and has been translated several times.
In English, there are several versions that adapt the German original, so u.a. 1926 by H. Brueckner (see American Lutheran Hymnal Music Edition, Compiled and edited by an Intersynodical Committee, Columbus, Ohio: The Wartburg Press, 1954, pp. 529, No. 618). The English page of Wikipeda provides two more variants.
With Mon beau sapin also exists a modern French version. The French Wikipedia also presents an older version from 1824.
In German-speaking countries, O Tannenbaum can not be missing on any Christmas recordings.
Almost every artist who interpreted traditional Christmas carols has also tried the classic O Tannenbaum.
International stars such as Soul-Lady Aretha Franklin (A Very Special Christmas 2), Tony Bennett (A Swingin ‚Christmas) and Chicago (Chicago XXXIII: O Christmas Three) presented their Christmas tree versions.
In 2010, Glee (Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album) did not pass this Christmas classic.
And also counted the New German hardness band Unheilig published in 2002 a version of O Tannenbaumauf her album Frohes Fest.
Thus, after Silent Night, Holy Night, O Tannenbaum is one of the most sung Christmas carols that conquered the world from Germany.