Monday, December 22, 2014

The Christmas Tree Tradition

History of Christmas Trees

Christmas Traditions


The tradition of Christmas trees goes back to ancient times.  The Egyptians were part of a long tradition that worshipped evergreens.  When the winter solstice arrived, they brought green date palm trees into their homes to symbolize life's triumph over death.  The Romans celebrated the winter solstice with a fest called Saturnalia in honor of Saturnus, the god of agriculture.  They decorated their houses with greens and lights and exchanged gifts.  They gave coins for prosperity, pastries for happiness, and lamps to light one's journey through life.  Late in the Middle Ages, Germans and Scandinavians placed evergreen trees inside their homes or just outside their doors to show their hope in the forthcoming spring.  It was through them that brought about the modern-day Christmas tree tradition.

Tradition has it that the Reformation leader Martin Luther began the practice of decorating trees to celebrate Christmas.  One crisp Christmas eve around 1500, Luther was walking through snow-covered woods and was enchanted by the beauty of a small group of evergreens,  Their branches, dusted by the snow, shimmered in the moonlight.  When he arrived home, he set up the fir tree indoors and shared this story with his children.  He decorated the tree with candles, which he lighted in honor of Christ's birth. 

The Christmas tree in America problem arrived with the Hessian troops during the Revolutionary War or with German immigrants to Pennsylvania and Ohio.  The Christmas tradition was slow in America because the Puritans banned Christmas in New England.  Prior to the mid-1800's, the Christmas tradition had a totally different meaning.  It wasn't familial like it is today.  Even as late as 1851, a Cleveland minister nearly lost his job because he allowed a tree in his church.  Students attended school on Christmas Day in Boston until 1870, when it became a federal holiday.  The Christmas tree market was born in 1851 when Catskill farmer Mark Carr hauled two ox cars of evergreens into New York City.  By 1900, one in five Americans had a Christmas tree, and 20 years later, the custom was universal. 

To read the rest of story behind the Christmas tree, click on the two above links about the history of the Christmas tree. 

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