Winter Blog Posts

Christmas Traditions–O Christmas Tree–How Lovely Are Your Branches!

Christmas Tree Plate Godey's Lady's Book December 1850

Godey’s Lady’s Book
December 1850

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree, How lovely are your branches! ~ from “O Christmas Tree”

It’s time to celebrate Christmas and one of the many traditions that have come to be associated with this holiday is the Christmas tree.   Whether it’s a real evergreen tree that was harvested at a tree farm or bought at a favorite Christmas tree lot or an artificial tree that is put up year after year–it is truly a welcome addition to the home at the holiday season.  The practice of bringing greenery and evergreens into the home during the winter is as old of a practice as can be remembered.  Decorating the home with greenery was in truth originally a remembrance and promise of the harvest to come.

It is said that in central Europe the practice of hanging a decorated evergreen tree upside down or creating a symbolic tree made of wood in the shape of a triangle as a symbol of Christianity became commonplace in certain areas as early as the 12th century.  Legend has it that this practice originated with the 8th century monk, Saint Boniface from Devonshire, who went to Germany to teach the word of God.  As trees were an important part of the inhabitants’ beliefs, the monk used the evergreen tree with its triangular shape to teach about the Trinity.

Another Christmas origin can be seen with the medieval practice during the 15th and 16th centuries of decorating an evergreen tree or branch with apples (representing the forbidden fruit) and wafers (representing the Eucharist and redemption).  This was done for plays performed on Christmas Eve which at that time was also known as Adam and Eve’s Day.

  • It is commonly held that the origin of displaying a Christmas tree as we know it was in Northern Europe, most likely Germany, during the 16th century.
  • The first written record of the “Christmas” tree was in Riga, Latvia, when in 1510 a local merchant’s guild decorated a tree with roses, danced around it in the marketplace, and set it ablaze at the end. [1]  This same written record refers to these same events occurring as early as 1476. [2]
  • In 1530, there is a record of trees being sold in the marketplace in Alsace, France (then in German territory) for the purpose of being brought into the home.  There was a law that restricted their height to 8 shoe lengths (which is slightly over 4 feet).  [1]
  • Early Christmas trees were decorated with fruit, nuts, and other edible foods.
  • Putting lights on the tree is said to have originated in the 16th century with Martin Luther who upon seeing the light of the stars shining through the evergreen trees, put candles on an evergreen tree as representative of “Jesus, who left the stars of heaven to come to earth at Christmas.” [3]

While the Christmas tree was brought to America as early as 1747 by Pennsylvania German immigrants, it was still not a common practice as late as the 1840s.

  • The first record of a public display of a Christmas tree in America was in the 1830s in Pennsylvania by German immigrants.
  • It was actually Queen Victoria of England and her German Prince Albert that brought the tradition of setting up and decorating a Christmas tree into mainstream practice.  As Queen Victoria was popular with her subjects, what she did and what she wore quickly became trends.  A picture of the Queen and her husband standing around a decorated Christmas tree was widely circulated in London in 1848.  The same picture sans crown and mustache to make it more appealing to the American public was published in Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1850 (pictured above) and the Christmas tree soon became an accepted and practiced Christmas tradition.
  • In 1851 Christmas trees began to be sold commercially being randomly harvested from the forest.
  • By 1870 putting up a Christmas tree was a common practice in America.

In the end the use of greenery in the home has always been symbolic of the light shining in the darkness, the hope and promise of new growth, and everlasting life.  What better way to celebrate Christmas, which is truly about the hope and promise of a Savior that comes to be the light of the world, than with a Christmas tree?!

Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand. 

~ an Old Irish Blessing

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Holidays and Seasons–Christmas in July!


Merry Christmas!

Well almost–there are only 6 months more to go.  But wait–it really is time to celebrate Christmas–in July.

Some may wonder if the retailers have finally succeeded in bringing Christmas earlier and earlier to the point of absolute madness or could there be another reason for all this celebration?

Certainly there is some truth in using Christmas in July to create sales opportunities especially since there are no real holidays after Independence Day and before Labor Day.  Creating a holiday in between is a great way to stir up sales–but retailers aren’t really to blame for starting this second Christmas celebration.

Before we look into its celebration, it is interesting to note that the first known recorded mention of Christmas in July was in the opera, “Werther”, written in 1892.   In the story children practicing a Christmas song were admonished:  “When you sing Christmas in July, you rush the season.”  Guess even back then no one really wanted to see Christmas come before its time.

  • The first recollected celebration of Christmas in July happened in 1933 at Camp Keystone, a girl’s summer camp in North Carolina, where it was decided to hold a Christmas party at their camp-out complete with a Christmas tree, presents, and a visit from St. Nick.  In 1935 the National Recreation Association’s magazine wrote “all mystery and wonder surround this annual event”.
  • Of course what better way to popularize something than through the movies?  The next known boost to this holiday was through the 1940 movie “Christmas in July”.
  • Perhaps the most noble early celebration of Christmas in July comes in 1942 at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.  The pastor, following a practice from a former church he had attended in Philadelphia, collected gifts and donations early in order to distribute to missions worldwide in time for Christmas.  Things didn’t move quite as quickly back then as they do now.
  • A Christmas campaign was instituted in July 1944 by the U.S. Post Office and the U.S. Army and Navy in conjunction with the American greeting card and advertising industries.  A luncheon was held in July in New York to encourage early mailing for service men and women stationed overseas to assure the mail would reach them by Christmas.  One must imagine that this most surely lent itself to a frenzy of Christmas shopping in July.  A true retailer’s dream come true.  Is it any wonder then that Christmas in July is something retailers quickly took a liking to?
  • By the 1950s Christmas in July sales were commonplace in the U.S.  It was a great way for the retailers to clear out last season’s merchandise in preparation for the coming season.  Christmas in July was officially here to stay.
  • There remains another Christmas in July origin (also known as Yulefest or Yuletide) which is centered around the thought that countries in the southern hemisphere who have their winter during this month want to celebrate Christmas during the cooler season just like their northern hemisphere counterparts do.  As July is typically the coldest month, social gatherings during the winter easily led to festivities reminiscent of Christmas.  In Australia, Christmas in July has become a big event with stores advertising just as if it were indeed Christmas and people decorating their homes and gathering to celebrate as well.  It is believed to have originated with (or at least promoted by) an Irish group who upon seeing snow in July while visiting Sydney’s Blue Mountains thought it perfect for celebrating Christmas.

Whether or not you like the idea of celebrating Christmas twice–Christmas in July is here to stay.  In the end–a little Christmas taken in its true spirit is something we all could do with having a little more of.

Merry Christmas!

Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.  ~ an Old Irish Blessing

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Winter Traditions

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Spring Traditions


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Summer Traditions


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Stay tuned for more information on how to celebrate traditions during the seasons