I am the original Charlie Brown. If sent to a Christmas tree lot I will pick the shortest, lopsided-ist, needle dropping-ist, skinny-ist tree there is and think it looks perfect. And in the dimly lit Christmas tree lot propped up against a makeshift wooden fence, all the trees look perfect. Then you take it home and set it up in your living room and wait for it to warm up so the “branches drop” and there sits your perfect Christmas tree; too short, lopsided, raining pine needles all over your carpet and much less full than it was next to the thirty or forty other trees. So this year, after readjusting and realigning the tree several times and waiting for one side of the branches to drop while the other side is dragging the floor I got a case of the “3 year olds” and asked ….. WHY?
Why do we bring a dead tree into our house every year and decorate it with lights and ornaments and celebrate around it, then a week later put all the decorations back up in our attic and throw the poor old dead tree out? So off to the History Channel’s website I went. Basically I can thank Queen Victoria for making Christmas trees popular. In 1846 Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who were extremely popular among their British subjects (i.e. Prince William and Kate or Lady Di before her death), were illustrated in the London News standing in front of a Christmas tree. So of course everyone in Britain then had to have a Christmas tree so they could be like the Queen. And then of course once they were doing something fashionable in England it had to become fashionable in America as well.
But why did the Queen have a Christmas tree? Because her husband Prince Albert was German and since the 16th century having a Christmas tree as part of your Christmas celebration was tradition in Germany. Again… WHY? Because the evergreens and actually any plant or tree that remains green all year have been highly regarded by people since the beginning of mankind. Dating back to early Romans and Egyptians and even the Druids and Celts, while celebrating the Winter Solstice would hang boughs of evergreen to remind themselves that spring would soon return and everything would be warm and green again. So I can kinda get into that… as I hate all things cold, snowy and wintery. They also thought that the evergreen would ward off witches, evil spirits, ghosts and illness. Good to know my lopsided hastily decorated Douglas Fir will ward off ghosts. I will have to tell Teagan as she and her brother were caught watching Ghost Adventures the other day after being told not to since it gives Teagan nightmares. “The Christmas tree will protect you – no really it will – go sleep under it.”
German immigrants to America brought their Christmas tree tradition with them but it didn’t catch on with other Americans. Christmas trees were seen as Pagan symbols – even as late as the 1840’s. My tree this year may actually be considered a Pagan symbol with its one side dragging the floor and the other side 3 feet off the ground – well at least by suburban soccer mom standards which require trees to be perfectly conical. The pilgrim puritans preached against “the heathen traditions” of Christmas carols, decorated trees or any joyful expression that desecrated the sacred event. My guess is that there are Puritan ministers rolling over in their graves these days. Especially if they’ve ever heard “Last Christmas” – the absolute worse Christmas song known to man yet covered by nearly every recording artist since 1984 when Wham! first released it.
In 1659 in Massachusetts the General Court enacted the “Clark W. Griswold” law making any celebration of December 25 other than church service illegal and subject to fines. OK, so it may not have actually been called the “Griswold” law however people were fined for decorating for Christmas. I would vote for a re-enactment of that law, not for religious reasons, but because I cannot compete with some of these extravagant light displays my neighbors have put up.
All “Griswold” laws were eventually repealed especially in the 19th century when the German and Irish immigrants came in wielding their wildly decorated evergreens. I like my version of history sometimes better than what actually happened as I picture comic book hero-like German and Irishmen swooping in with trees all pimped out and the Puritans holding out their Bibles to try to stop them. I really should consider teaching 8th grade history, my version is much better than Dawson’s book. Anyway – then came the Queen Victoria illustration and by the 1890’s most American’s had Christmas trees. Well except for Jewish families… they don’t have Christmas trees.
So unless I become a Puritan, or Jewish, or William and Kate are featured in some article denouncing Christmas trees as environmentally unfriendly (Teddy Roosevelt did that when he was President – but it didn’t catch on – obviously) I will again next year take my Charlie Brown ass to the tree lot and pick out another lopsided monstrosity of a tree. In case you’re wondering I also don’t have any better luck with artificial trees as the easy to assemble pre-lit one I own is no longer pre-lit and I can’t find the 1 tiny light causing the issue. If the Germans couldn’t find a suitable tree they used to build a pyramid of wood and set candles and decorations on it – maybe I could try that at least it would be conical. I like that word… conical. Say it again… conical. (I swear I’m not drinking eggnog!)
(Sigh)…………… Well I don’t see us converting to Judaism any time soon so I could always contend I’m Puritan and that’s why my house isn’t decorated…. Right?