Legend associates the first Christmas Tree with Saint Boniface and the German town of Geismar. Sometime around 700 AD., he is said to have cut down the sacred Oak of Thor, replacing it with a Fir-Tree which became the first Christmas Tree. The word Tannenbaum, is German for "Fir-Tree." The triangular shape of the Fir-Tree was used to describe the Holy Trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The converted people began to revere the Fir-Tree as God's Tree, as they had previously revered the Oak.
The custom of erecting a Christmas Tree can be historically traced to 15th century Livonia (present-day Estonia and Latvia). According to the first documented uses of a Christmas Tree in Estonia, in 1441, 1442, and 1514 the Brotherhood of Blackheads erected a Tree for the holidays in their brotherhood house in Reval (now Tallinn). At the last night of the celebrations leading up to the holidays, the Tree was taken to the Town Hall Square where the members of the brotherhood danced around it. By 1584, it became a tradition to set up a decorated spruce at the market square where the young men “went with a flock of maidens and women, first sang and danced there and then set the Tree aflame”.
The Christmas Tree first came to England with the Georgian Kings (1714-1830) who came from Germany. At this time also, German Merchants living in England decorated their homes with a Christmas Tree. But the British public were not fond of the German Monarchy, so did not copy the fashions at Court. A few families did have Christmas Trees however, probably more from the influence of their German neighbors than from the Royal Court.
Several cities in the United States with German connections lay claim to the first American Christmas Tree: Windsor Locks, Connecticut, claims that a Hessian soldier put up the "First Christmas Tree in America" in 1777 while imprisoned at the Noden-Reed House.
In the early 19th century, the custom became popular among the nobility and spread to royal courts as far as Russia. Princess Henrietta of Nassau-Weilburg introduced the Christmas Tree to Vienna in 1816, and the custom spread across Austria in the following years. In France, the first Christmas Tree was introduced in 1840 by the duchesse d'Orléans. In Denmark the first attested Christmas Tree was lit in 1808 by countess Wilhemine of Holsteinborg. It was the aging countess who told the story of the first Danish Christmas Tree to the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen in 1865. He had published a fairy-tale called The Fir-Tree in 1844, recounting the fate of a Fir-Tree being used as a Christmas Tree.
In Britain, Princess Victoria made an entry in her journal for Christmas Eve 1832. The delighted 13-year-old Queen-To-Be wrote, "After dinner… we then went into the drawing-room near the dining-room… There were two large round tables on which were placed two trees hung with lights and sugar ornaments. All the presents being placed round the trees…" In 1846, Queen Victoria and her German Prince, Albert, were sketched in the Illustrated London News standing with their children around a Christmas Tree. Unlike the previous royal family, Victoria was very popular with her subjects, and what was done at court immediately became fashionable—not only in Britain, but with fashion-conscious East Coast American Society. The tradition of the English Christmas Tree had arrived!
It was around Christmas 1851 when a farmer in the State of New York, Mark Carr, began a journey with two oxen drawn sleds toward New York City with a crop of Christmas Trees in tow. When he arrived in New York the first Christmas Tree market was born. He had no problem selling all his Trees. The first Christmas Tree farm in the United States is believed to have begun in 1901 when 25,000 Norway Spruce Trees were planted by W. V. McGalliard in Mercer County, near Trenton, New Jersey. The Trees were sold seven years later.
During the 30's, Americans seem to put the Depression behind them at Christmastime. Tree farms actually prospered and ornament sales were on the increase. But the mid-1960's saw a new change. Modernist ideas were everywhere. The 'Silver Pine' tree, patented in the 1950's, was designed to have a revolving light source under it, which allowed the light to shine in different shades as it revolved under the tree. With the artificial tree, no decorations were needed. There were even pine scented sprays to put on the tree for that 'real Tree smell'!
In the 1970's there was a return to the living Christmas Tree with traditional decorations. Today the modern American Christmas Tree is really a nostalgic return to the days of Queen Victoria. A real Christmas Tree with its evergreen aroma really sets the mood for a great Christmas Season. Hope Christmas Trees wishes the best Christmas for you and your family.
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