Green River Star -

By Misty Brodiaea Springer
Public Affairs and Grants Administrator 

Notes from Town Square: The mayor's tree lighting

 


This Thursday at 5:30 p.m. the city lights up the Mayor’s Tree in downtown Green River. Baring that in mind, we thought it might be amusing to share a bit of history about one of America’s most beloved Holiday traditions.

If you are a fan of Christmas Carols you may be familiar with “O Tannenbaum,” and may even know that it’s a German carol made popular in America during the days when groups of singers went door to door serenading their neighbors or perched on bustling street corners as Christmas shoppers whirled by. But you may not know that the Christmas Tree also comes from Germany and dates back to the 14th and 15th centuries when evergreens were decorated with apples during the winter solstice. By the 1700’s in Germany, evergreen tips were hung upside-down and decorated with (by now) traditional apples, candied nuts, strip of paper, candies and biscuits; these became known as “sugar trees.”

The tradition of evergreen trees association with Christmas is attributed to Martin Luther around 1500. According to the story, Luther was struck by the beauty of a group of small evergreens dusted with snow and shimmering in the moonlight. Later, he set up a little fir tree in his home and decorated it with candles in honor of Christ’s birth.

Christmas trees first came to America with the Hessian troops fighting alongside the English against General George Washington in winter of 1776. It is even speculated that Washington’s defeat of the German Mercenaries on Dec. 26 was do in no small part to the swollen heads of the merry-makers who had been celebrating since the evening of Dec. 24. Most people living in the New World at the time didn’t celebrate Christmas and puritans in New England even banned the holiday as late as 1851.

Later German immigrants to Pennsylvania and Ohio continued traditions form the “old country” and by the 1800’s the tree in a German settler’s home had grown from a table top decoration to a floor to ceiling affair. It was not until the mid-1800s, thanks to Queen Victoria and her German husband, Prince Albert, that the Christmas Tree gained widespread popularity among the aristocracy in England and Europe. One year the royal family was portrayed by the printed media in sumptuous color standing around a gloriously decorated tree in one of the great halls of Buckingham Palace.

That was all it took, soon all the best families in England had an evergreen in their living rooms. The tradition quickly jumped the pond and wealthy Americans were decorating Christmas Trees too.

President Franklin Pierce is credited with bringing the first Christmas tree to the White House in 1853.  The first Christmas tree market popped up in 1851 in New York City.

By 1901 the first Christmas tree farm was born with the planting of 25,000 Norway Spruce near Trenton, N.J., the trees were harvested in 1908 and sold for $1.00 each.

Our tree in downtown Green River may not be quite as spectacular as that first inspiration in Buckingham Palace nor as huge an the Christmas tree in Times Square, but it’s ours, and the Mayor hopes you will come down to the Clock Tower plaza and share in the Holiday spirit with friends and neighbors as we light up our tree to start the holiday season.

 

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