Languages › German "O Tannenbaum" ("Oh Christmas Tree") Christmas Carol Lyrics Share Flipboard Email Print SolStock / Getty Images German History & Culture Pronunciation & Conversation Vocabulary Grammar By Hyde Flippo German Expert Hyde Flippo taught the German language for 28 years at high school and college levels and published several books on the German language and culture. our editorial process Hyde Flippo Updated November 04, 2019 The popular Christmas carol "O Tannenbaum" was written in Germany in the mid-1500s. The original folk song has been rewritten many times over the centuries. The song's long history is not very detailed, but it is interesting. It's also fascinating to see how one modern German version literally translates into English. It's not quite what you're probably familiar with. The History of "O Tannenbaum" A Tannenbaum is a fir tree (die Tanne) or Christmas tree (der Weihnachtsbaum). Although most Christmas trees today are spruce (Fichten) rather than Tannen, the qualities of the evergreen have inspired musicians to write several Tannenbaum songs in German over the years. The first known Tannenbaum song lyrics date to 1550. A similar 1615 song by Melchior Franck (1579 to 1639) goes: “Ach TannebaumAch Tannebaumdu bist ein edler Zweig!Du grünest uns den Winter,die lieben Sommerzeit.” Roughly translated, it means, "Oh pine tree, oh pine tree, you're a noble twig! You greet us in the winter, the dear summer time." In the 1800s, the German preacher and collector of folk music, Joachim Zarnack (1777 to 1827) wrote his own song inspired by the folk song. His version used the true leaves of the tree as a contrast to his sad tune about an unfaithful (or untrue) lover. The best-known version of a Tannenbaum song was penned in 1824 by Ernst Gebhard Salomon Anschütz (1780 to 1861). He was a well-known organist, teacher, poet, and composer from Leipzig, Germany. His song doesn't specifically refer to a Christmas tree that is decorated for the holiday with ornaments and a star. Instead, it sings of the green fir tree, as more of a symbol of the season. Anschütz left the reference to a true tree in his song, and that adjective dates back to the faithless lover Zarnack sung about. Today, the old song is a popular Christmas carol that is sung far beyond Germany. It's common to hear it sung in the United States, even among people who don't speak German. The Lyrics and Translation The English version here is a literal translation—not the traditional English lyrics for the song—for learning purposes. There are at least a dozen other versions of this carol. For example, a number of modern versions of this song changed "treu" (true) to "gruen" (green). The traditional melody of “O Tannenbaum” has also found use in non-Christmas songs. Four U.S. states (Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, and New Jersey) have borrowed the melody for their state song. Deutsch English "O Tannenbaum"Text: Ernst Anschütz, 1824Melodie: Volksweise (traditional) "O Christmas Tree"Literal English translationTraditional melody O Tannenbaum,O Tannenbaum,wie treu sind deine Blätter.Du grünst nicht nur zur Sommerzeit,Nein auch im Winter, wenn es schneit.O TannenbaumO Tannenbaum,wie treu sind deine Blätter. O Christmas tree,O Christmas tree,How loyal are your leaves/needles.You're green not only in the summertime,No, also in winter when it snows.O Christmas treeO Christmas treeHow loyal are your leaves/needles. Do You Know How to Sing "Jingle Bells" in German? Can You Sing "Mack the Knife" in German? Why Did the Fab Four Sing in German? What Are the German Lyrics for "Silent Night"? It's Time to Sing "Happy Birthday" in German Can You Sing '99 Red Balloons' in German, the Way It Was Written? Learn German by Singing "Gruen sind alle meine Kleider" Traditional Holiday Terms in German There Are Several Ways to Sing 'Happy Birthday' in German The Translation of 'Edelweiss' Isn't Exact but Keeps the Song's Tone Do You Know the German Version of 'Patty Cake'? Learn These Common German Folk Songs Your Kids Will Love These German Nursery Rhymes Do You Know When German Holidays Are Celebrated? 3 Famous Christmas Poems in German and English What Are the Different Santa Clauses in German-Speaking Countries?