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Christmas Tree

A Christmas tree, Holiday tree, Yule tree or Tannenbaum (in German) is normally an evergreen coniferous tree that is brought into a home or used in the open, and is decorated with Christmas lights and colourful ornaments during the days around Christmas. An angel or star is often placed at the top of the tree called a tree-topper, representing the host of angels or the Star of Bethlehem from the Nativity story.

Origin

There are several origin tales connected with the Christmas trees.

1. The tradition of Christmas tree comes from Germany where in 1570, a small fir tree was decorated with apples, nuts, dates, pretzels and paper flowers, and erected in the guild-house, for the benefit of the guild members' children, who collected the dainties on Christmas day.

2. In Basel, tailor apprentices carried around town a tree decorated with apples and cheese in 1597.

3. In the 1500s,  Martin Luther is said to have decorated a small tree in house to symbolize the way the stars shined at night.

How the tradition spread

In the early 19th century, the custom became popular among the nobility and spread to royal courts as far as Russia. Princess Henrietta of Nassau-Weilburg introduced the Christmas tree to Vienna in 1816, and the custom spread across Austria in the following years. In France, the first Christmas tree was introduced in 1840 by the duchess of Orleans.

The Queen's Christmas tree at Osborne House. The engraving republished in Godey's Lady's Book, Philadelphia, December 1850In Britain, the Christmas tree was introduced by King George III's German Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz but did not spread much beyond the royal family. After the marriage of Queen Victoria to her German cousin, Prince Albert, the custom became even more widespread.

Christmas Trees in United States

Several cities in the United States lay claim to that country's first Christmas tree. Windsor Locks, Connecticut, claims that a Hessian soldier put up a Christmas tree in 1777 while imprisoned at the Noden-Reed House, thus making it the home of the first Christmas tree in New England. The "First Christmas Tree in America" is also claimed by Easton, Pennsylvania, where German settlers purportedly erected a Christmas tree in 1816. In his diary, Matthew Zahm of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, recorded the use of a Christmas tree in 1821 -- leading Lancaster to also lay claim to the first Christmas Tree in America.

Decorating the Christmas Tree

August Imgard, a German immigrant living in Wooster, Ohio, is the first to popularise the practice of decorating a tree. In 1847, Imgard cut a blue spruce tree from a woods outside town, had the Wooster village tinsmith construct a star, and placed the tree in his house, decorating it with paper ornaments and candy canes. The National Confectioners' Association officially recognises Imgard as the first ever to put candy canes on a Christmas tree; the canes were all-white, with no red stripes. Imgard is buried in the Wooster Cemetery, and every year, a large pine tree above his grave is lit with Christmas lights.

 

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