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The Christmas Tree in Victorian America

The traditions of the Christmas season, at least in America, evolved during the Victorian period to encase much of what we still celebrate as part of Christmas today. St. Nicholas or Santa Claus appeared as a main part of the season during the Victorian era.
Also, the Christmas tree, thought of by many as being donated by German immigrants, who decorated an evergreen tree in their homes. This tradition, in actuality dates back to pre-Christian times. To the Romans, the evergreen was a symbol of fertility and regeneration. The early Christians adapted the symbol to represent the Tree of Life and Jesus.

The Christmas tree in America dates back to as early as 1812 or 1819. New York was originally a Dutch Republic named New Amsterdam, hence the earliest American Christmas trees may have originated with the German-American population.

The Christmas tree gradually increased in popularity over the next twenty years. Universal appeal occurred during the 1850’s and 1860’s.

Godey’s promoted the charm of the in-home Christmas tree, highlighting Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s celebration. A table-top tree was included, the print appearing in the December Godey’s issue in 1850. Albert had introduced the tree he’d embraced as a child in Germany and years after his marriage to Victoria, stated, “I must now seek in the children an echo of what Ernest [his brother]and I were in the old-time, of what we felt and thought; and their delight in the Christmas-trees is not less than ours used to be,…”

In America, over the next decade, Christmas trees started to appear in both the churches and the marketplace. This in turn, encouraged people to bring them into their homes, making the tree an important part of holiday décor.

From Christmas Trees and Godey’s Lady’s Book/ America’s Victorian Era in the Age of Sail

For more information and photos of early Christmas trees go to
http://karleeaturner.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/godeys-christmas-1848-issue/   

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3 Comments

  1. I enjoy learning the stories behind the traditions. Living in a forest in Northern California, we’ve always been able to trek through the woods and pick the right tree. Unfortunately, they always seemed the perfect size but when we’d get them home a lot of time we couldn’t get it into the house without chopping feet off the bottom. My husband promised a ‘much’ smaller one the last time we did this and when he came home and we measured it – his small tree was 18 feet tall and broke the tree stand. It was a beauty, though, and we brought the ladder in and decorated for hours and hours. A nice memory.

  2. Hi Susan,
    Thank you for posting, another interesting blog as usual. I love learning about the origins of events we like to celebrate.

    Have a great Christmas

    Regards

    Margaret

  3. […] The Christmas Tree in Victorian America   The traditions of the Christmas season, at least in America, evolved during the Victorian period to encase much of what we still celebrate as part of Christmas today. St. Nicholas or Santa Claus appeared as a main part of the season during the Victorian era.   Also, the Christmas tree, thought of by many as being donated by German immigrants, who decorated an evergreen tree in their homes. This tradition, in actuality dates back to pre-Christian times. To the Romans, the evergreen was a symbol of fertility and regeneration. The early Christians adapted the symbol to represent the Tree of Life and Jesus. […]

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