CHRISTMAS TREE TRADITION HAS ANCIENT ORIGINS
The Egyptians were part of a long line of cultures that treasured and worshipped evergreens. When the winter solstice arrives, they brought green date palm leaves into their homes to symbolize life's triumph over death.
The Romans celebrated the winter solstice with a fest called Saturnalia in honor of Saturnus, the god of agriculture. They decorated their houses with greens and lights and exchanged gifts. They gave coins for prosperity, pastries for happiness, and lamps to light one's journey through life.
CHRISTMAS TREE HISTORY
Late in the Middle Ages, Germans and Scandinavians placed evergreen trees inside their homes or just outside their doors to show their hope in the forthcoming spring. Our modern Christmas tree evolved from these early traditions.
Until about 1700, the use of Christmas trees appears to have been confined to the Rhine River District. From 1700 on, when lights were accepted as part of the decorations, the Christmas tree was well on its way to becoming a tradition in Germany.
"It is from Germany that we in the United States get many of our Christmas customs, songs, images of Santa, pine trees and European hand blow glass ornaments.
How these traditions traveled to England is interesting. Queen Victoria often visited relatives in Germany in the town of Coburg and while there she fell in love with a young Prince Albert. After they got married they returned to England to raise their family.
The tree that Price Albert provided his family was admired by all in England. This tree was decorated in the finest of hand blown glass ornaments. Since everyone liked the Queen they copied her Christmas customs including the Christmas tree and ornaments.
A F.W. Woolworth brought the glass ornament tradition to the United States in 1890. From 1870's to 1930's, Germans made the finest molds for making ornaments with nearly 5,000 different molds at the time. At the turn of the century there were over one hundred small cottage glass blowing workshops in Europe. During the heyday of turn of the century ornament making, almost all ornaments were made in Lauscha, a small town nested in the Thuringian mountains. After the war, however, glass ornament production declined.
In the 1960's it was fashionable to have an Aluminum tree and all the same shape and color ornaments. Many threw away the old ornaments from Germany.
The Christmas tree market was born in 1851 when Catskill farmer Mark Carr hauled two ox sleds of evergreens into New York City and sold them all. By 1900, one in five American families had a Christmas tree, and 20 years later, the custom was nearly universal.
Christmas tree farms sprang up during the depression. Nurserymen couldn't sell their evergreens for landscaping, so they cut them for Christmas trees. Cultivated trees were preferred because they have more symmetrical shape then wild ones.
Six species account for about 90 percent of the nation's Christmas tree trade. Scotch pine ranks first, comprising about 40 percent of the market, followed by Douglas fir which accounts for about 35 percent. The other big sellers are noble fir, white pine, balsam fir and white spruce. Leyland Cypress is a big seller in the South.
Trees and branches can be made purposeful as well as symbolic. The Christmas tree is a symbol of a living Christmas spirit and brings into our lives a pleasant aroma of the forest. The fact that balsam fir twigs, more than any other evergreen twigs, resemble crosses may have had much to do with the early popularity of balsam fir used as Christmas trees.
Today’s Christmas Tradition
In this age of environmental awareness it's appropriate to know a favorite family holiday tradition of choosing a real Christmas tree over an artificial tree is still the environmentally sound choice.
"Consumers are showing their preference for real, natural products that are socially conscious. Many young families are attracted to the tradition of celebrating Christmas with a real tree in their home," explained Scott.
Christmas tree farms stabilize soil, protect water supplies and provide refuge for wildlife while creating scenic green belts. Often, Christmas trees are grown on soils that could not support other crops.
A benefit to the atmosphere, real Christmas trees absorb carbon dioxide and other gases, emitting fresh oxygen. This helps prevent the earth-warming "greenhouse effect". One acre of Christmas trees produces the daily oxygen requirement for 18 people. With approximately one million acres producing Christmas trees in the United States, which translates into oxygen for 18 million people every day. For every real Christmas tree harvested, three seedlings are planted in its place.
Real Christmas trees are an all-American, recyclable resource. Artificial trees, most of which are manufactured in Korea, Taiwan or Hong Kong; consist of plastics and metals that aren't biodegradable. When disposed of, the artificial trees will never deteriorate. Their effects on our environment are evident and will remain for countless generations.
The top selling Christmas trees are: