Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Trees, Queen Victoria, And Coleridge

"Antiques: 2 museums trace tree trimming of years past"
Home & Design, Philadelphia Inquirer (December 18, 2009)

"Beautiful evergreen trees are at the heart of Christmas decor. They display cherished antique ornaments and scent the air around them. On this side of the Atlantic, the history of decorated and candlelit Christmas trees begins in Pennsylvania.

"Two current museum exhibitions celebrate the splendid custom with multiple trees sporting historical and fanciful trimmings. 'Yuletide at Winterthur' decks the halls at du Pont's estate in Delaware, while 'The National Christmas Center Presents a Lancaster Christmas' traces the evolution of tree decoration in the 19th and 20th centuries.

"The tree tradition was strong in Germany and came to these shores with early German settlers. Old World descriptions survive from the 16th century of trees decorated with fruit, nuts, pretzels, and paper flowers, and the practice was firmly established by the 18th century...."

If you don't live near Philadelphia, the museum exhibits aren't going to do you much good. Happily, the rest of the article traces the Christmas tree tradition from its German roots, through what Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Queen Victoria had to do with bringing the custom to the English-speaking world, to what happened when Christmas trees jumped the Atlantic and landed in America - metaphorically speaking, of course.

There's a pretty heavy emphasis on the Philadelphia angle to all this - but after all, the article's in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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