Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Tree Lore

The Christmas tree, also known as a “Yule” tree, is a decorated evergreen tree tradition that began in Estonia/Latvia in the 15th century. First documented uses of a Christmas tree were by The Brotherhood of Blackheads, an association of local unmarried merchants, ship owners, and foreigners active in present-day Estonia and Latvia.

It was reported that members of this military organization danced around the tree and by 1584 the pastor and chronicler Balthasar Russow wrote of an established tradition of setting 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 first American Christmas tree can be credited to a Hessian soldier by the name of Henrick Roddmore, who was captured at the Battle of Bennington in 1776. He then went to work on the farm of Samuel Denslow in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, where for the next 14 years he put up and decorated Christmas trees in the Denslow family home.

The first American President to set up a Christmas tree in the White House was Franklin Pierce, and the first to establish the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House was Calvin Coolidge.

In 1979 during President Jimmy Carter’s term only the tree’s crowning star was lit in honor of the Americans being held hostage in Iran.

Contemporary Christmas trees now include artificial trees that have grown in popularity; especially among those who do not want to cut down live trees or cannot plant a live potted tree when the season ends. People who live in city apartments where space may be a concern use oversized tree branches placed on table tops or mantles, decorated with simply themed ornaments or standing up in vases.

In these modern times there are also mini-Christmas trees for those who live in mobile homes or travel during the holiday season and want to take the season’s spirit with them on the road. From traditional to contemporary, Christmas trees – in whatever form – are still an essential holiday ingredient.

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