O Christmas Tree

O Christmas Tree
By Pat Nelson
I spoke with a representative of Woodland’s Moose Lodge recently about its annual Christmas tree lot, which members will operate east of Dollar Tree in the Big Deals Shopping Center, 629 Goerig Street. That made me realize it’s almost time to start decorating!

I thought back to stories my parents told about struggling to earn a little money by selling Christmas trees in northern Minnesota during the depression. As a child, I remember dad cutting our Christmas tree in the woods. We decorated it with popcorn, cranberries and tinsel, plus handmade ornaments created from bottle caps and tin-can lids. All it took to create a festive ornament was a lid, some glue, a picture carefully cut from a catalog and some yarn for a hanger. How I wish I still had some of those handmade ornaments filled with memories instead of the perfectly formed sparkling ornaments from the department stores.

As I thought about the Christmas trees of my life, both the ones decorated with can lids and popcorn and the ones decorated with sparkling lights and store-bought ornaments, I began to wonder about the history of the Christmas tree. Here are some interesting details I found on the Internet:

  • Christmas trees were traditionally decorated with apples, nuts or dates.
  • The custom comes from early modern Germany but can be traced to the 15th or 16th century.
  • Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion to Christianity.
  • Christmas trees have been illuminated since the 18th century, first with candles.
  • According to the Historychannel, Protestant Christian reformer Martin Luther first added lighted candles to a tree.
  • In many countries, a Paradise Tree was decorated with apples for medieval mystery plays that were given on December 24, the apples representing the forbidden fruit and Adam and Eve, with wafers to represent the Eucharist. These trees were later placed in homes and instead of apples, they were decorated with round objects such as shiny balls.
  • Aluminum Christmas trees were popular during the early 1960s in the U.S., and in 1965 were satirized in A Charlie Brown Christmas.
  • The U.S. national Christmas tree has been lit each year since 1923 on the south lawn of the White House.
  • In 1979, in honor of the Americans being held hostage in Iran, President Carter lit only the crowning star atop the tree.
  • In 1980, the tree was fully lit for only 417 seconds, one second for each day the hostages had been in captivity.

Now that you know more about the Christmas tree, are you ready to buy yours? Nearby tree farmers are busy harvesting trees both for local lots and to ship across the country. In Woodland, trees have been arriving by the truckload at a processing yard where workers unload them and spread them on tarps to prepare for shipping.
This year when you decorate your tree, take a moment to reflect on its history, but also remember its place in the history of your own life. O Christmas tree, you are a part of my history, so I think I will make an ornament from a bottle cap this year.