Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Lore--Day 22

From:  Youth's Keepsake Christmas and New Year's Gift for Young People

The Christmas Tree
The Christmas tree plays such an important role in our celebration of Christmas, that it is difficult to imagine the holiday without a shiny, sparkling tree. The Christmas tree is a relative newcomer to the holiday season.

As early as 1820, there were some German families in Pennsylvania who were known to have been decorating trees, but the custom would remain a bit unusual in the United States until well into the 19th century. A Harvard College professor (he was originally from Germany), is known to have set up a Christmas tree in his home in the mid 1830s.

The first Christmas tree in Virginia was, more than likely, one in Williamsburg in 1842. The first recorded tree in western Virginia was in Stanton, Virginia in 1855.

The Christmas Tree--Godey's Ladies' Book December 1855

The early trees were decorated with apples, cookies, popcorn, cranberries, gilded and natural fruits and nuts. Homemade paper items such as paper chains and cornucopias adorned the trees. Candles, which were only lit for brief, magical moments, provided the light on the trees. Even small presents were hung on the trees which were then picked off and passed out to guest.

Virginia's Explore Park--Hofauger House Parlor

The custom of the Christmas tree really caught on when Prince Albert (a German) and Queen Victoria appeared in an 1848 print that was published in magazines. The print showed the royal family gathered around a decorated tree in Windsor Castle. Since Americans copied all things "Queen Victoria", the fashion of having a decorated tree became all the rage. By the 1860s, the modest table top tree had been replaced with full size Christmas trees.

Godey's Ladies' Book December 1850
Queen Victoria, Prince Albert & Family

When I first met my husband in 1999, we had an ornament engraved with our names and the year.  Every year since, we get a special, engraved ornament. The other ornaments on our tree are either from my family or they represent special things in our lives. There are many seashells on the tree because we do go to the beach often and we were married on the beach, there is a NASCAR ornament because my husband loves racing, there is a hand-cranked music box that plays "Pop, Goes the Weasel" because I love that childhood ditty, there are music notes, fiddles, treble clefs, and a trumpet to represent my love of music, and there are doves to represent loved ones who have died.

The Burnette-Dean Family Tree 2011

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