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Latvia Claims Original Christmas Tree

This is image is a photo illustration and not the actual first Christmas tree.
This is image is a photo illustration and not the actual first Christmas tree. Source: Photo: ERR

Every proper Estonian knows that the world's first Christmas tree was erected in Tallinn, but that the nation's Grinch-of-a-neighbor, Latvia, is trying to steal the claim to fame.

Whether it is blaming each other for exceeding fishing quotas or laying claims for a bear that caught international media attention when it forged the Baltic sea and scared island inhabitants - it is always the important things that Estonians and Latvians contest over. Now, the seasonal dispute considers archives that historians say were devoured by mice centuries ago. 

"Riga, Latvia – home of the first Christmas tree, anno 1510,“ the southern neighbor advertises on its billboards.

Yet a merchants' guild in Tallinn erected Estonia's first tree in 1441 - 69 years before Riga, by expert calculations. "I believe we can confidently use that date as the world's first Christmas tree," said historian Jüri Kuuskemaa on ETV.

It is known that after merchants and single women had danced around the first Christmas tree (in Tallinn, naturally), it was set on fire and all evidence was disposed of. According to records, the Riga Christmas tree wasn't even a real tree, just a wooden pyramid decorated with flowers, fruits and toys. 

Latvia recently gave Estonia a Christmas present. Tallinn's mayor kindly returned the favor. "He congratulated us on the 500th anniversary of the Riga Christmas tree and reminded us that Tallinn is celebrating the 569th anniversary," Mayor of Riga Nils Usakovs told AFP. "It's good that the sole topic of disagreement between Riga and Tallinn is who has the oldest Christmas tree."

Now the ingenious Latvians point to the fact that Estonia and Latvia both made up a united Livonia during the time of the first Christmas trees. 

Decorating Christmas trees was for a long time considered a pagan tradition that did not reach the West until hundreds of years later. "Thus, we and the Latvians [...] can be proud to have introduced the Western Christianity with a fun tradition that is now celebrated everywhere. But the story began here in Old Livonia," said Kuuskemaa.

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