The tradition of Christmas tree

The tradition of Christmas trees on squares came after the rescue of a little girl. She was found in a forest near Bílovice nad Svitavou in 1919 three days before Christmas Day by journalist Rudolf Těsnohlídek, Academy of Fine Arts student František Koudelka, and court clerk Josef Tesař. The 17-month-old Liduška, as her discoverers named her, was lucky as she was placed with a family which cared for her perfectly and she lived to 79.

Her story really struck the sensitive Rudolf Těsnohlídek, and he was thinking about how to help abandoned children. He was inspired on a trip to Copenhagen by how they collected money for poor children under a decorated tree. He decided to bring this Scandinavian tradition to Czechoslovakia. The first Tree of the Republic, as he called it then, was cut on 6 December 1924 in a forest near Bílovice and ceremoniously lit a week later, on 13 December 1924, on Brno’s Freedom Square. Thanks to the collection under the tree, a children’s home designed by Bohuslav Fuchs was opened in 1929 and was named after Danish Queen Dagmar, famed for caring for the poor. Unfortunately, Těsnohlídek did not live to see the opening, as he committed suicide on 12 January 1928.

This tradition of Christmas trees on squares spread in 1926 to Pilsen and later to Prague. The first ever public Christmas tree was lit in 1912 in New York, the first in Europe was in 1914 in Copenhagen, and the first in Czechia, probably the first in Central Europe, was the one in Brno in 1924.