In 1854 a huge Christmas tree was placed at the site of the 1851 Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace, a personal triumph for Prince Albert, which help increase the demand for Christmas trees. But the association of the fir tree with Christianity began long before Prince Albert. Tradition says St. Boniface, who converted the German people to Christianity almost 1,000 years ago, came across a group of pagans worshiping the oak tree and in anger cut down the tree. In its place a fir tree is said to have sprung up from the roots of the oak which St. Boniface took as a sign of the Christian faith.
From Illustrated London Times, 1848
There is a long line of cultures what have treasured the evergreen and have included them in their celebrations. On the arrival of the winter solstice, ancient Egyptians brought green date palms into their homes; the Romans celebrated Saturnus, the god of agriculture, by decorating their homes with greens and lights; the Druids of Great Britain used evergreens during their winter solstice rituals and used holly and mistletoe as symbols of eternal life and placed evergreen boughs over their doors to keep away evil spirits.
During the American Revolutionary War, Hessian troops introduced the custom to the fledgling American population along with German immigrants in Pennsylvania and Ohio but the custom was slow to spread. Puritans banned Christmas in New England; schools in Boston stayed open on Christmas Day until 1871, students who stayed home were sometimes expelled.
So with a tip of the crown to Prince Albert, here are a few of my favorite Christmas tree photos and memories.
One of my earliest memories of Christmas, celebrated at 'the farm' in 1958 with my maternal grandparents, Harley and Alma Polar Space. I am in the middle clutching my bride doll, my sister Lisa on the right, age 10-months, and second cousin, Patty, on the left. I vividly recall not being able to get to sleep on Christmas Eve and my father bringing me downstairs with the hope I would go to sleep in my grandmother's room. Fat chance of that happening after I caught a glimpse of my doll, in all her wedding glory, front and center under the tree.
Christmas 1966 in Madison, WI. This began the Bergeron family tradition of having two trees: one in the living room and the other in the family room. This was the upstairs living room tree. That is me, sporting the Twiggy hair style showing off my guitar to my youngest sister Lori while adorable pixie bob Michelle looks on.
Christmas 1970 in Madison, the downstairs tree.
Christmas in Eau Claire at my parents house, circa 1990, the upstairs tree overlooking the wonderful mayhem of Christmas morning.
The one and only Christmas we spent 'up north' at our cabin, about 1991. Al, Chris and Jeff headed off with the four-wheelers to cut down the tree with Christmas snow falling. No lights or ornaments, I had brought up every one's stockings and garland but it is one of my fondest Christmas memories.
"Every day, during the week the tree stood there, Francie put on her sweater and stocking cap and went in and sat under the tree. She sat there and enjoyed the smell of the dark greenness of it. Oh, the mystery of a great tree, a prisoner in a tin bucket in a tenement front room!" Excerpt from "The Christmas Tree in Brooklyn. Betty Smith. 1943