Take a look at the tree of Christ­mas past

The Standard Journal - - LIFESTYLE - By Ricky Ens­ley Polk County Ex­ten­sion Co­or­di­na­tor

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 came into fash­ion.

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 old­fash­ioned 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.

“Happy Hol­i­days from your Polk County Ex­ten­sion Staff”

Ricky Ens­ley

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