O Christmas tree, O Christmas Tree

Much pleasure do you bring me!

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree                                                                                  Much Pleasure do you bring me!

I have such fond memories of gathering ‘round the tall, brilliantly decorated Christmas tree at my grandparents’ house every Christmas Eve! Everyone was there…aunts, uncles, and cousins with neighbors in this close-knit company town of Mather, Pa. dropping by throughout the evening. The delicious smell of lovingly prepared holiday goodies filled the air! Cobblers were one of my grandmother’s specialties…cherry and peach! Yum! I recall asking her for the recipe years later. I still have the handwritten note she sent me that begins …Make a nice pie dough!

There was fun and laughter everywhere as family members chatted and made jolly! Being the oldest of the grandchildren, I had the honor of passing out the numerous gifts from under the sparkling pine Christmas tree.  My grandmother always had several gifts for everyone as she began shopping for the next Christmas the day after the current one! My grandfather also had a twinkle in his eye as he made merry and enjoyed having his five children and numerous grandchildren home for the holidays! My grandmother was a teacher in town. She and Grandpa Hen (For Henry) loved having kids around! My cousins and I still reminisce about the happy times we shared there! Another precious memory for me is accompanying my grandmother to the midnight service at the Christian Church at the center of town. It was always such a tender time to share!                       

I’m sure you all have holiday memories that you treasure that include gathering around a Christmas tree….That symbol of a living Christmas Spirit!

As you may well know, a Fraser fir, a 19-footer grown by Rusty and Beau Estes in Ashe County, is gracing the Blue Room of the White House this year. Fraser firs grow naturally only in the Southern Appalachians, above 3,000 feet and are considered nearly perfect Christmas trees. One reason, besides the pyramid shape, is that they do not shed throughout the Christmas season. The cool temperatures and lots of rainfall of the North Carolina High Country are what cause the Fraser fir to keep its needles during the entire holiday season.

Fraser fir is named for John Fraser, a Scottish botanist, who explored the southern Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina in the late 1700’s.

There are a variety of stories from different times in history about how the Christmas tree came to be our current tradition.

*Some people trace the origin of the Christmas tree to an earlier period. Egyptians, in celebrating the winter solstice- the shortest day of the year- brought green date palms into their homes as a symbol of “life triumphant over death”.

*As far back in time as the Middle Ages, it is said that Germans and Scandinavians placed evergreen trees inside their homes or just beside their doors to show their hope for the coming of spring.

*Legend has it that Martin Luther began the tradition of decorating trees to celebrate Christmas. One crisp Christmas Eve about the year 1500, he was walking through snow-covered woods and was struck by the beauty of a group of small evergreens. Their branches dusted with snow, shimmered in the moonlight. When he got home, he set up a little fir tree indoors so he could share the story with his children.  He decorated it with candles, which he lighted in honor of Christ’s birth.

*The modern Christmas tree can be dated back to Western Germany during the 16th century.  These trees were known as Paradeisbaum, which translates to ‘Paradise Trees”. These were in reference to Adam and Eve and correlated to a traditional feast which landed on December 24th, the feast of Adam and Eve.

*Until about 1700, the use of Christmas trees appears to have been confined to the Rhine River District of Germany. From 1700 on, when lights were accepted as part of the decorations, the Christmas tree was well on its way to becoming tradition in Germany. Then the tradition crossed the Atlantic with the Hessian soldiers.

In fact, there is a question of whether a celebration around a Christmas tree on a bitter cold Christmas Eve in Trenton, New Jersey may have turned the tide for the colonial forces of 1776. According to legend, Hessian mercenaries were so reminded of home by a candlelit evergreen tree that they abandoned their guard posts to eat, drink, and be merry. Washington attacked that night and defeated them….Interesting legend!

*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.

*The first president to arrange a Christmas tree set-up at the White House was President Franklin Pierce (1804 – 1869).  Following him, President Calvin Coolidge (1885 – 1933) began the annual national Christmas tree Lighting Ceremony on the White House territory in 1923.

Today the Christmas tree is beloved by many!

The Christmas trees at Brunswick Plantation are shining bright as I observed on the Holly Berry Trail of neighbors’ homes. The Holly Berry Trail is a tradition here at Brunswick Plantation.  Folks open their homes to share their decorations, refreshments, and Good Tidings!

“Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.”  Larry Wilde, The Merry Book of Christmas

We’d love to hear your favorite Christmas tree story…Please share on comments!

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