Christmas Tree Beginnings

Most Americans in the 19th-century thought Christmas trees to be an oddity

Long before the arrival of Christianity, trees and plants which remained green year around carried a special meaning in the winter for people . Similar to the people of today who decorate their homes with pine, fir and spruce trees during the holiday season, our ancient ancestors hung boughs of evergreens over their windows and doors. In many countries people thought that evergreens would fiend off the ghosts, witches, illness and evil spirits away.

The shortest day with the accompanying most lengthy night during the year within the Northern hemisphere falls upon December 21 and December 22 which is labeled winter solstice. Many ancient peoples held a belief that our sun existed as a god while winter occurred every year as the sun god became weak and sick. The solstice was celebrated because finally the god sun would start getting well again. Evergreen boughs were a reminder of the green plants which would begin to grow again as the sun god became strong while summer would again return.

The early Egyptians prayed to a god they called Ra, who contained a hawk's head and wore a blazing disk of the sun disk upon his crown. During solstice, as Ra began to recuperate from his illness, the Egyptians would fill their residences with green rushes of palms, a symbol for the conquest of life above death.

The ancient Romans celebrated solstice with a banquet they called the Saturnalia honoring Saturn, the agriculture god. The Romans understood that the solstice was a sign that orchards and farms would soon turn green and become fruitful. To commemorate the season, they decorated their temples and homes with boughs of evergreens.

The mysterious Druids of Northern Europe the priests for the primeval Celts, also used evergreen boughs to decorate their temples as a representation of everlasting life. The fierce Scandinavian Vikings believed that evergreens were a special plant of sun god, Balder.

Germany is recognized a establishing the Christmas tree custom as we know it today back during the 16th century as devout Christians began bringing trees that were decorated into their residences. A few even built Christmas pyramids using wood and used evergreens to decorate them and even candles when wood was hard to come by. It is a common belief that a Protestant reformer from the 16th century, Martin Luther, first added lit candles to an evergreen tree. On one one winter evening as he returned to his home after writing a sermon, he became struck in awe by the brilliant stars twinkling among the evergreens. To recreate the scene to show his family, he put up a tree in their primary room and wired lighted candles to its branches.

Most Americans in the 19th-century thought Christmas trees to be an oddity. The very first record of a tree seen displayed was by Pennsylvania German settlers during the 1830s, although Christmas trees were a custom in many German houses much earlier than that. The German settlements in Pennsylvania erected community trees as far back as 1747. However, as recent as the mid 1840s people believed Christmas trees were pagan symbols and were not accepted by the majority of Americans.

it comes as no surprise that, similar to many other celebratory Christmas traditions, the tree was so late to be embraced by Americans. Christmas was sacred to the Puritans of New England. The second governor of the pilgrims, William Bradford, stated that he attempted very hard to eradicate "pagan mockery" from the Christian observance, issuing penalties for frivolity. Oliver Cromwell, influentially preached in opposition to "the heathen customs of Christmas carols, joyful expression and decorated trees, which despoiled the sacred observance." The Massachusetts General Court enacted a law in 1869 providing that any December 25 observance (other than church services) a penal offense; thus people were being fined for putting up decorations. That stern solemnity persisted into the 19th century, as the influx of Irish and German immigrants destabilized the Puritan legacy.

The popular royal couple, Queen Victoria along with Prince, Albert, were depicted in the London News Illustrated In 1846 standing near a Christmas tree with their children. Unlike the royal family prior to that, Victoria was extremely popular among her subjects, and things happened at court became trendy immediately, not just in Britain, but in the fashion-aware East Coast Society of America . The Christmas tree turned into an instant tradition.

Christmas ornaments were coming in from Germany by the 1890's and the popularity of Christmas tree became popular all over the United States. One note was that while Europeans put up small trees around four tall, while Americans wanted their trees to span from the floor to the ceiling.

In the early part of the 20th century, Americans mostly decorated their trees with homemade ornaments, as the German-Americans persisted in using nuts, apples, and marzipan cookies. Strung popcorn after being dyed using bright colors and interwoven with nuts and berries. Electricity ushered Christmas lights in, making it feasible for Christmas tree lights to glow for what seemed like endless days . Christmas trees started appearing in town squares all over the country and putting up a Christmas tree inside their home turned into an American custom.

Christmas tree ins and outs

  • There have been Christmas trees commercially sold in the U. S. since around 1850.
  • The initial community Christmas tree was erected in the U. S. in 1912 in New York City.
  • President Calvin Coolidge in 1923 began our National Christmas Tree Lighting Ritual which takes place each year on the lawn of the White House
  • From the time periods of 1887 through 1933 the fishing schooner named the Christmas Ship docked at the bridge at Clark Street and sold Michigan spruce trees to people living in Chicago.
  • The tallest live Christmas tree is thought to be a 91-year-old 122 ft. Douglas fir growing in Woodinville, Washington.
  • The tradition of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center started in 1933.
  • The 14th president. Franklin Pierce, initiated the White House Christmas tree custom.
  • An assistant to Thomas Edison brain stormed with the idea to use electric lights on Christmas trees.
  • For environmental reasons, Teddy Roosevelt once banned the Christmas tree from the White House.
  • The National Christmas Tree wasn't lit until December 22nd in 1963 because of a 30-day national period of mourning subsequent to President Kennedy's assassination.
  • The National Christmas Tree Association provides a Christmas tree for the President and the first family since 1966.
  • The National Christmas Tree wasn't lit in 1979 with the exception of the top ornament. This was done to honor of American hostages inside Iran.
  • The National Christmas Tree was lit on December 13th 1984 as temperatures were still in the 70s, making it one of the warmest times for a tree lighting in history.
  • 34 - 36 million Christmas trees are harvested each year while 95 percent are sold or shipped straight from tree farms.
  • 77 million Christmas trees are planted every year.
  • 100,000 people have jobs in the Christmas tree industry.
  • 98 percent of all the Christmas trees are raised on farms.
  • Over 1,000,000 acres in land are planted in Christmas trees.
  • More than 2,000 Christmas trees are typically planted on each acre.
  • Christmas trees typically take 6 to 8 years for maturity.
  • Other species of trees like hawthorns and cherry have been previously used as Christmas trees.
  • The top selling trees are Douglas Fir, Scotch Pine, Fraser Fir, White Pine and Balsam Fir.
  • Tinsel contained lead at one time and was at one time banned by the government, itís now made of plastic.
  • You should never attempt to burn your Christmas tree in the fireplace. It contributes to buildup of creosote.
  • During it's first week, a Christmas tree in your home will drink as much as one quart of water every day.
  • A majority of Christmas trees are harvested weeks before they reach a retail outlet.
  • The biggest producing states for Christmas trees are Oregon, California, Michigan, Wisconsin, Washington, North Carolina. and Pennsylvania
  • There are Christmas trees farms in all the 50 states which includes Alaska and Hawaii.

Dec 7, 2012