Thursday, December 23, 2010

O Christmas Tree...

Although Christmas trees are considered an American standard today, most families in the early 1800s thought the German tradition was just plain strange. As late as the early 1840s, the Christmas tree was viewed as a pagan symbol not befitting a Christian holiday. A mid-late 1840s sketch of England's Queen Victoria appearing in The Illustrated London News changed all that, however. Once she and Prince Albert were depicted with the table-top tree now associated with mid-late 19th c. tradition (and the image was reproduced in the wildly popular Godey's Lady's book), it became very fashionable to feature the same. In 1856, United States President Franklin Pierce featured a "German tree" at the White House. By 1860, many American families celebrated the holiday with trees.

Did you know? In 1880, Woolworths first sold manufactured Christmas tree ornaments, and they caught on very quickly. Martin Luther, in the 16th century, is credited as being the first person to put candles on a tree, and the first electrically lighted Christmas tree appeared in 1882.

Did you know? In the early 1890s, the Salvation Army needed money to pay for the free Christmas meals they provided to needy families. They began dressing up unemployed men in Santa Claus suits and sending them into the streets of New York to solicit donations—these “bell-ringers” have been with us in American cities ever since.


Anonymous said...

Have you read "The Battle for Christmas"? All about the changes in the 19th century of how we celebrate Christmas. Highly recommended!

Rena--Museum Educator said...

Haven't read it! I'll check it out!