December 22, 2014
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The Magic Garden
A Christmas Holiday Tradition for everyone
Morton White

When did the custom of decorating Christmas trees originate?

We get our custom directly from the European tradition. Before the custom was "christened," the ancient Egyptians brought palm branches into their homes in late December to celebrate winter solstice, as a symbol of the evolution of life. Later, Romans trimmed evergreen trees with trinkets and topped them off with an image of the Sun God, Apollo, on the occasion of Saturnalia. Winter solstice was celebrated by Druid sorcerers when they place lit candles and golden apples on oak trees. The feast of Adam and Eve was held during the Middle Ages on Dec. 24 to celebrate the Christian tradition. They adorned the fir trees and called them "paradise" trees.

Where did it start in America?

Christmas celebration was banned in the Massuchusetts Bay Colony by the Puritans from 1659 to 1681. German mercenaries brought the custom of decorating Tannenbaum at Christmas time to this country during the Revolutionary War. It appears that the military perpetuated this symbol of peace and Christianity. U.S. Army soldiers hauled evergreen trees from nearby forests to Fort Dearborn (now Chicago) in 1804 for the holiday. Stringed popcorn, gilded nuts and lit candles adorned Charles Minnegerode's tree in Williamsburg, Va. in 1842. Charles Fallon, a Unitarian minister in Lexington, Mass., brought a living tree into the parish house about the same time. In 1851, Mark Carr sold Christmas trees on the sidewalks in New York City. These cut trees came from his land in the Catskills Mountains. In 1870, Christmas became a national legal holiday in the United States.

When did the leadership adopt the custom?

Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, gave the tradition the royal treatment during their reign, while President Franklin Pierce, the 14th president, set up the Christmas tree in the White House. The official Christmas tree lighting ceremony started with President Calvin Coolidge in 1923.

What does the future hold for the tradition?

Over 35 million families in America will carry on the tradition this year with the sweet scents of pine, balsam, cedar and spruce. If the holiday will include other segments of the population, it can only grow as a national observance.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to Everyone.


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