To many, the beginning of the Christmas season is getting a tree decorated. The aroma, beauty, and the special adventure of having a tree are sensed by all in the home.
But, having a tree at Christmas is a relatively new tradition in America. Across the Christian world, Christmas trees haven’t always been associated with the holiday season.
The roots (no pun intended) of Christmas trees can be traced back before the birth of Jesus Christ to early Egyptians who would bring palms indoors as symbols of eternal life.
Ancient Jewish religious feasts were decked with tree boughs. The Romans exchanged tree boughs with friends for luck. They celebrated their winter festival by decorating the house with tree boughs and greenery, and they paraded trees around with candles and trinkets attached to the branches.
Across Europe, people used folk tales to teach children about the celebration of Christ’s birth. The evergreen tree’s symbolism of eternal life was strong. In the early 1600s, many German towns were celebrating Christmas with elaborately decorated trees. Decorations first used were paper flowers, fruits, nuts, gold foil, cakes, small gifts and candies.
German mercenaries used by the British in the Revolutionary War were responsible for bringing the Christmas tree tradition to the United States. Old Puritan doctrine banned any celebration at Christmas, and holiday festivities around the Christmas tree took a while to become established in America.
In the 1820s the use of Christmas trees across the Christian world exploded. From the royal family in England to the elite of America, Christmas trees were fashionable.
In 1851, the first retail tree lot was set up on a sidewalk in New York City and sold out quickly. The first American president to show off the White House tree was Franklin Pierce. Benjamin Harrison declared the White House tree to be part of an old-fashioned American tradition in 1889.
By the 1800s, many referred to the decorated trees as “German toys”. Now, though, the Christmas tree tradition seems to have always been with us in the United States.
The Polk County Extension service staff wish your family a happy holidays for 2017.