A few days ago, I was at home nursing a case of bronchitis. I happily caught up on some Christmas television viewing including a DVD from the History Channel, “Christmas Unwrapped: the History of Christmas.”
Among the many things I learned about the Christmas holiday was the note of gratitude we owe to the Germans for our contemporary trees. For it was in the mid-1800s, when Queen Victoria of England married her cousin Prince Albert of Germany. Albert brought with him the custom of the Christmas tree to the castle. Queen Victoria, popular with her “subjects,” was something of a trend-setter of the day. So, the Christmas trees immediately caught on with the British commoners. Americans (particularly those on the East Coast), looking to their English cousins, were soon to follow the custom.
According to the History Channel, Germans tended to have smaller trees, by our standards, but Americans loved trees from floor to ceiling. “The early 20th century saw Americans decorating their trees with homemade ornaments, while the German-Americans continued to use apples, nuts, and marzipan cookies. Electricity brought about Christmas lights, making it possible for Christmas trees to glow for days on end. With this, Christmas trees began to appear in town squares across the country and having a Christmas tree in the home became an American tradition.”