December 24, 2015

Christmas Tree Traditions And Folklore

[source: Battenfield Christmas Tree Farm]

For almost half a century, the Battenfeld family farm has been a part of America's Christmas holidays, providing the Christmas trees and memories for a traditional Christmas. The Battenfeld farm, located in the mid Hudson Valley of New York State (approximately 2 hrs north of Manhattan), is a 5th generation family farm offering visitors an old fashioned day in the country to choose and cut their own Christmas tree.

The phrase "tree of Life" has appeared in almost every language, and its "roots" run deep in antiquity. Poetic references that identify human life and nature with the life of trees are as old as the written word. Frequent analogies are observed in and implied by the existence and life cycles of trees, the growing, nurturing, taking root, branching-out in Life, and so on. The use of the tree as a symbol for Life predates Christianity and doesn't derive from any one particular culture or religion. Predictably, the "ever-greens" came to play an obvious role in all our collective symbology, since naturally they posses the inherent trait which conveys a message of renewal and suggests Life everlasting.

Aspects and indications of the origins of our Christmas tree traditions can be traced back thousands of years.

Shamans utilized branches and swatches of evergreens in their winter lodges and in ritual. Druid priests and priestesses decorated trees in celebration of the winter solstice. The Egyptians would bring green palm branches into their homes in December to mark the shortest day of the year, invoking the symbology of recurrence and Life's triumph over Death.

Star-topped trees are thought to have originated with the Romans, who decorated trees with various ornaments and crowned them with icons of their sun god in celebration of Saturnalia. The custom of hanging the branches of evergreens in the home, and bunches and wreaths of evergreens on doors and above windows is very widespread throughout our collective history, usually associated with an attempt to bar entrance to illness and evil. More similar to our own holiday trees were the "Paradise" trees, firs, that were decorated to celebrate the feast of Adam & Eve on December 24th.

The use of evergreen trees in connection with celebrating the Christ mas at the winter solstice is believed to have originated in Germany in the 1500's. There were instances of many families, whether rich or poor, celebrating the holiday with fanciful decorations on fir trees. There are even references to the selling of Christmas trees in the villages were gathered from the forests. Over the next couple of centuries, the tradition of the Christmas tree was established from London to Lisbon, and from Paris to St. Petersburg. In the late 1700's, during the American Revolution, Hessian mercenaries introduced the custom to this country.

The Germans are also given credit for introducing the Christmas tree in Canada, where in 1781 a German immigrant named Baron von Riedesel put up the first Christmas tree (a balsam fir) in Sorel, Quebec. Equally famous is Charles Minnegerode, another German immigrant, who is fondly remembered for having introduced the custom in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1842. The first documented instance of the retailing of Christmas trees in America occurred in 1851, when a Pennsylvanian by the name of Mark Carr hauled two ox sleds loaded with trees down from the Catskill Mountains to the city of New York.

Other milestones in Christmas tree trivia: Franklin Pierce - 14th President of the United States - was the first to put up a tree in the White House, and, in 1923, President Calvin Coolidge gave us all the tradition of the National Christmas Tree, which also entailed the tree lighting ceremony out on the great lawn that now symbolizes the official opening of America's holiday.

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