“O Christmas Tree”
With Santa, Frosty and Rudolph during Christmas can be fun. But in center of all the fun is the Christmas tree.
Until the mid-20th century strips of silver was used for tinsel on Christmas trees for over 300 years. It was rolled out flat and sliced into thin stripes. It was used over and again and passed down through generations. It tarnished easily and had to be polished every year by hand. In 19th century lead was added to help the tinsel hang better, but it was removed in the 20th century because of health concerns.
The Christmas tree is a Germanic custom that was bought to Great Britain with the Georgian kings. It caught on quickly with the aristocracy but not with the peasants who looked at it as a foreign custom. It took over 100 years for this practice to be a common place in Great Britain and its outlying territories.
Queen Victoria was directly responsible for the English-speaking world adopting the Christmas tree as a traditional part of the Christmas celebration. In 1846 publication ‘The Illustrated London News’ carried an illustration of Queen Victoria and her family around a Christmas tree. That was all it took. The country loved their queen, and if she liked Christmas trees so did they.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, the larger your Christmas tree the more status you had among your peers. For many years, only the tops were cut off trees and used as Christmas trees. They were usually no more than 2-3 feet tall and usually stood on table. During the Victorian Era this changed as people became fonder large floor standing trees and it became a status symbol to have the largest tree in your neighborhood.
Addis Brush Company made the first artificial Christmas tree. Around the 1900, this company made the tree from the same material they used for their toilet brushes. The material was simply dyed Green. The over cutting of trees for holiday usage had caused legislation to be passed in some areas banning the cutting of live trees for use as Christmas trees. The artificial tree was an instant hit.
In 16th century Poland it was popular to hang the Christmas tree upside down from the ceiling. As strange it may sound, it is true. It was being done in some regions of Germany as far back as the 12th century. It was considered as Christmas Chandelier.
Franklin Pierce the 14th President of America bought the tradition of the Christmas tree to the White House. The proper name for the main Presidential Christmas tree is the Blue Room Christmas tree. The motif of this tree is left to the discretion of the First Lady. The tradition has varied with each President that followed. A few Presidents did not have any trees, while in 1997 there were 36 Christmas trees in the White House.
In Russia, the Christmas tree as banned during the October revolution in 1917 but in 1935 it was reintroduced as the ‘New Year Spruce’. The star at the top of the tree for example was not the Star of Bethlehem but the Red Star. Decorations focused around Russian Technological advancements with rockets and aeroplanes being attached to the trees. When USSR fell apart, this tradition persisted. Even today, most Russians celebrate New Year more heartily than Christmas.
There are Christmas trees farms that grow the requisite conifer trees just for Christmas. It takes about 8-12 years for the tree to reach a height of 7 feet. The most commonly used species are ‘fir’, which do not shed their needles and retain their scent & color. In North America it is ‘Douglas fir’ and or ‘Balsam fir’. In Europe it is ‘Norway spruce’ or ‘Silver fir’.
The Christmas Carol ‘O Tannenbaum’, in English ‘ O Christmas Tree’ was composed by German composer Ernst Anschustz. ‘O Tannenbaum’ was based on a traditional folk song which was unrelated to Christmas, nevertheless it is played for over 100 years every Christmas Season.
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