This is a great article on the Christmas Tree, a nice read. Read it imbecile get the history of the Christmas Tree:
This has not been a great season for the Christmas tree. First there was the short-lived federal effort to add 15 cents to the price of a tree to support promotion of the industry — a fee derided by opponents as a “Christmas tree tax.”
Then there was the decision by the governor of Rhode Island to display a “holiday tree” rather than a “Christmas tree.” And let’s not forget the usual warnings from firefighters about tree lights and dry needles.
True, the business of selling what is essentially a temporary decoration remains huge. Americans will spend about $3.4 billion on Christmas trees this year. But that figure remains below pre-recession levels. Worse, only $800 million will be spent on trees that are actually trees. The rest, alas, will go to the makers of plastic replicas.
By volume, real trees still outsell fake ones, but the trend favors the fakes. They are cheaper over the long run and save time: No more trips to the nursery or the garden shop or the tree farm, no more baling the tree and tying it atop the car, no more struggling to seat it properly in the base. Plastic trees are available fully decorated, and, as the jargon has it, “pre-lit,” thus enabling the buyer to save more time still. But the trend is in other ways enormously sad, the breaking of a sustaining ritual of the American tribe.
Among the fondest of my childhood memories are freezing Christmas Eve jaunts with my father, who often waited to buy the family tree until prices hit rock bottom. Once we were back home, Dad would string the lights as Mom played carols on the piano and my brothers and sisters and I waited impatiently to play our part in the ritual: hanging decorations on the boughs.
Gift of Sacrifice
My parents never spent much on gifts, but the gifts were never the point. The value of our holiday rituals derived from time they required, the sacrifice of other tasks in the communal activity of preparation. We were not a religious family. Church was no more a part of our Christmas celebration than it was of our weekly life. Our tradition was sustained by the hard yet ritualistic work of putting up the tree itself. As it turns out, my parents’ secular yet sacrificial approach to Christmas mirrored the holiday’s peculiar American history — and helps show what the nation is losing as we rush to make Christmas as quick and easy as everything else.
The courts have generally regarded Christmas trees as secular rather than religious symbols, thus clearing the way for towns and cities (and the federal government) to erect their own. Although some people remain uneasy with these rulings, the judges basically have the matter right. Certainly the history is on their side.
Recently I came across an essay published in 1915, defending the public tree as having caused people to “feel together that glow of kindliness and good will which we call the Christmas spirit.” The writer lauded the tree’s symbol as “an idealistic, forward looking conception” that could only lead to better government. What’s striking about his argument is that it is addressing criticism of the municipal tree not from secularists but from Christians: During the tree’s first century on these shores, it was largely Protestants who opposed it.
The first large city to display a tree of its own was New York, 100 years ago — in the face of severe criticism from churches. It was the retailers, not the religious, who demanded the tree. According to the historian Stephen Nissenbaum, whose excellent volume “The Battle for Christmas” is the definitive tale of the holiday’s travails in the U.S., it was the forces of commerce, not faith, that pressed to turn a day largely ignored by American churches into the widely celebrated holiday it has become.
A Forbidden Holiday
In the 18th and early 19th centuries, an America that was largely Protestant or secular dismissed the Christmas celebration as a decadent European tradition that had no proper home in the newly founded republic. Churches shut their doors on Christmas Day, and many Puritan communities forbade the holiday for its frivolity. (Some towns required by law that businesses remain open on Christmas.)
It was the rising retail trade that began to press for change. By the early 19th century, Nissenbaum says, stores had already adopted the image of Santa Claus in an effort to sell their goods. Even the iconic Christmas tale “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (now familiarly known as “The Night Before Christmas”) benefited mainly the retail trade.