Every year at Christmas our home had a special guest. Our guest was always dressed in the finest fashion. This elegant guest was our Christmas tree. Dad and I always went by horse and sleigh on the trail through our farm to get it. It had been chosen earlier and marked so that there was no other decision when the time came. Dad hitched the horses. The sleigh bells were ringing and I bundled up to my eyes, felt like the happiest kid alive!
After returning with our priceless cargo, Dad unhitched the horses, put them in the barn and then we unloaded the tree. He said it was only fair that we put the tree in there first so that the animals could enjoy it too. I agreed. I loved the way my Dad thought of everything. Also it gave our tree a chance to thaw out overnight, which I realized years later.
This was our Christmas tree tradition from the time my sisters and I could remember and it continued until Mom and Dad moved from the farm. Long after we were all grown up with families of our own, we still drove through blizzard conditions at times, on our Mother’s prayers, to make it home for the holidays and gather around that wonderful guest in our living room, sing carols, and enjoy the house overflowing with family, food, and dear neighbors.
Although we weren’t the only ones with a Christmas Tree tradition, ours is the one I think about the most to this day. But, did you know the custom actually began in Germany & Scandinavia in the 15th century?
During the winter, families brought evergreens into their parlors or living rooms, and dressed them with paper roses, apples and sweets. The smell of fresh pine helped them to remember the spirit of life when all seemed cold and dark.
One Christmas Eve, a spiritual man named Martin Luther, was walking through the forest in Germany. He looked up and was so touched by the star filled winter sky that he chopped down a fir tree and brought it home for his children. He put candles on the tree and lit them. His family was so excited, they gathered around and shouted that the tree was filled with heavenly stars! Martin Luther wanted them to see the spirit of Christ, lighting up a dark, cold world at Christmas time.
News about Martin Luther’s tree spread quickly. Soon other families went out and chose the finest trees they could find and brought them home. The Christmas tree tradition began.
Today, many celebrate by placing gifts underneath the tree as a reminder of the Christ child, Jesus, and His birth that special night. The shepherds followed a bright star and Wise Men brought gifts to honor Him and show their love.
When German settlers came to America, they brought the Christmas tree tradition with them. Many settled in Pennsylvania in the 1940’s. Brightly decorated trees became a joyful and popular sight for young and old.
However, it was back in 1856 that President Franklin Pearce set up the first White House tree and every year since, a beautifully decorated Christmas tree is there as the White House special guest.
Growing a Christmas tree takes approximately 6-8 years before they are tall and full enough to be cut and brought to our homes.
If you are out searching for that perfect tree, even if it is in a commercial lot these days, listen closely amongst the branches. Close your eyes for just a moment and let your imagination take you away to those simpler yester years. You might be able to hear that old spirit whispering softly…of a Christmas and the first Christmas tree tradition…of long, long ago.
Merry Christmas Memories. Hold them close to your heart.