Thanks for subscribing to this new adventure in gardening. :-) I’m on a steep learning curve with this website and its features (including this email system) but as a good friend pointed out — I’m happiest when I’m learning something and sharing that with readers.
The process of moving several thousand gardening posts to Medium is a daunting task and I decided to take it in small steps. I wanted to get the bones of the site established quickly (done) and then begin to add one post a week thereafter.
This newsletter will expand to include links to interesting things I find on the Net, links to some of my notes here and a featured article. And… :-)
Of course, this is a retirement project now and I’ll devote more time to it in the winter (like today when an ice storm is pounding down outside my office window.) than in the spring and summer when I’m building stone walls or working in the garden or…
Yeah, we had cats who loved the tree and dogs who ate the cookies we hung on it (we learned to hang the cookies much higher) But they too brought their share of magic to Christmas.
The Legends Surrounding Christmas Trees
By now, many of you will have put up your Christmas tree, decorated it and stuffed presents under its skirts to tantalize and tease all in the household. As most of you know, there is a long tradition of using evergreens in winter celebrations. Dr. C. Hole in the book, Protective Symbols in the Home, wrote that, “Long before the Christian era began, evergreens which flourish when everything else in nature is withered and dead, were regarded as symbols of undying life, and used in magical rites to ensure the return of vegetation. The sacred buildings of Europe and Western Asia were decked with them for the Winter Solstice rituals.” Most of no longer celebrate those Winter Solstice rituals, nor I suspect do we regard our trees as anything more than hangers to hold those decorations for Christmas morning.
While our society is guilty of succumbing to advertising jingles and pressures, putting up Christmas trees just after Halloween in some cases, the traditions are much more restrictive than that. Christmas greenery was not to be brought into the house until Christmas Eve in most traditions — although this was probably more respected in theory than in operating fact. It was however to be removed from the house before Twelfth Night or January 6. The trees were not burned and certainly the holly and ivy used in decorating the house was never burned in the fireplace. In some parts of Ireland, the holly was kept and burnt under the pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.
Legend has it that Martin Luther gave us our first decorated Christmas tree. The story goes that he wandered outside one bright, star-lit Christmas eve and was awed by the millions of shining stars. To celebrate this heavenly sight, he set up a tree for his children and covered it with hundreds of lit candles. Whether this was true or not, the first recorded use of a decorated Christmas tree comes from 1605. It was recorded about Stasburg, Germany, “At Christmas they set up fir trees in the parlours of Strasburg and hand thereon rose cut out of many-coloured paper, apples, wafers, gold-foil, sweets, etc.” Using decorated trees remained a continental European tradition for several hundred more years.
Christmas trees arrived in England with the court of George III in the 1800’s. The various merchants, soldiers and courtiers who accompanied him from Germany brought these Christmas traditions with them to this new court. However, using decorated trees at Christmas did not catch the public fancy until Queen Victoria and Prince Albert set up a huge tree at Windsor Castle. Reported in the press, complete with illustrations, the Christmas tree craze was born and we’ve not been the same since. I do note that there was a report in 1912 that Christmas trees were still only for the well-to-do. The landowners or merchants would set up a tree and all the children would be invited in to look at the lit candles and decorations. The poor could not afford such luxury. And such luxury it is. A friend of ours decorates his tree with candles and one of our Christmas outings is to visit and sit around a candle-lit tree sipping our mulled cider and hot chocolate. They are beautiful but one has to be very, very careful with lit candles next to a resinous evergreen.
After the introduction of electricity, light bulbs replaced candles and trees began to be erected in public place for all to enjoy. The first of the electric-lit public trees that is well recorded took place in Pasadena, California in 1909. Now, the use of Christmas trees is everywhere and I suspect the original meanings have been lost in that ubiquity. Just part of the landscape so to speak.
As a note of practicality in this historical lesson, do keep your tree well watered this season. Not that it will live afterwards but if you keep it watered in its stand, the needles will stay green longer and not dry out. Dry needles are serious fire hazards and can be lit off by the heat of a nearby electric light bulb. Once ignited, it only takes three seconds for the tree to be totally consumed by flames and almost impossible to extinguish with household fire systems. A few gallons of water and a few minutes every day or two can easily prevent a Christmas tragedy.
Let me take this moment to wish all of you a very happy Christmas season. However you see or celebrate this holiday season, I hope you can find it in your hearts to bring some love into this world. Love, in life or gardening, is really the most important thing we share and my Christmas wish for you would be that you are able to find and share some love with those around you.
“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.”
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