Friday, December 02, 2005

The History of Christmas, Part 1 - The Tree

December twenty-fifth is called Christmas Day, and has been for centuries. We're all simply going to have to accept that and move on. So grab your candy cane and cocoa, sit close to the fire and let's learn about the history of Christmas.

American Christmas Tree Facts

* Christmas trees have been sold commercially in the United states since about 1850. Until fairly recently, all Christmas trees came from the forest.

* Thirty-four to thirty-six million Christmas trees are produced each year and 95 percent are shipped or sold directly from Christmas tree farms.

* California, Oregon, Michigan, Washington, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and North Carolina are the top Christmas tree producing states. Oregon is the leading producer of Christmas trees - 8.6 million in 1998.

* More than one million acres of land have been planted in Christmas trees. The industry employs over 100,000 people. Many Christmas tree growers grow trees on a part-time basis to supplement farm and non-farm income.

* More than 2,000 trees are usually planted per acre. On an average 1,000-1,500 of these trees will survive. In the North, maybe, 750 trees will remain. Almost all trees require shearing to attain the Christmas tree shape. At six to seven feet, trees are ready for harvest. It takes six to ten years of fighting heavy rain, wind, hail and drought to get a mature tree.

* In North America, there are more than 15,000 Christmas tree growers.

* In the United States, there are more than 12,000 cut-your-own farms.

* Oregon produces the most real Christmas trees. In 2001, 8.3 million trees were harvested in Oregon.

* Since 1966, the National Christmas Tree Association has given a Christmas tree to the President and first family.

* The first decorated Christmas was in Riga, Latvia in 1510.

* The first Christmas tree retail lot in the United States was started in 1851 in New York by Mark Carr.

* Since 1971, the Province of Nova Scotia has presented the Boston Christmas Tree tree to the people of Boston in gratitude for the relief supplies received from the citizens of Boston after a ship exploded in 1917 following a collision in the Halifax, Nova Scotia Harbor. Part of the city was leveled killing and injuring thousands.

* Christmas trees are grown in all 50 states including Hawaii and Alaska.

* 100,000 people are employed in the Christmas tree industry.

* 98 percent of all Christmas trees are grown on farms.

* In 1856 Franklin Pierce, the 14th President of the United States, was the
first President to place a Christmas tree in the White House.

* President Coolidge started the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on
the White House lawn in 1923.

* More than 1,000,000 acres of land have been planted to Christmas trees.

* In 2002, 21% of United States households had a real
tree, 48% had an artificial tree and 32% had not tree.

* 73 million new Christmas trees will be planted this year.

* More than 330,000 real Christmas trees are sold via e-commerce or catalogs.

* In 2002, 32 percent of Christmas trees displayed in United States were real trees; 49% were fake trees.

* On average, over 2,000 Christmas trees are planted per acre.

* Using small candles to light a Christmas tree dates back to the middle of the 17th century.

* Thomas Edison’s assistant, Edward Johnson, came up with the idea of electric lights for Christmas trees in 1882.

* Christmas tree lights were first mass produced in 1890.

* Teddy Roosevelt banned the Christmas tree from the White House for environmental reasons.

* In the first week, a tree in your home will consume as much as a quart of water per day.

* Michigan ranks fourth (4 million trees in 1998) among all states in the production of real Christmas trees, but grows a larger variety (13) of Christmas trees than any other state.

* A Christmas tree decoration was banned by the government. Tinsel contained lead at one time, now it’s made of plastic.

* Real Christmas trees are involved in less than one-tenth of one percent of residential fires and only when ignited by some external ignition sources.

* 2-3 seedlings are planted for every harvested Christmas tree.

* 59 percent of real Christmas trees harvested are recycled in community programs.

* In 2002, 21% of Christmas trees sold were from chain stores;
16% by non-profit groups; 22% from retail lots and 35% from choose and cut farms.

* 82% of Christmas trees purchased
were pre-cut and 18% were cut your own.

* The value of all Christmas trees harvested in 2001 was $360 million.

* 28 million Christmas trees were sold in 2001.

* 34-36 million Christmas trees were harvested in the United States in 2001.

* An acre of Christmas trees provides for the daily oxygen requirements of 18 people.

* In 1900, large stores started to erect big illuminated Christmas trees.

* Every year since 1947, the people of Oslo, Norway have given a Christmas tree to the city of Westminster, England. The gift is an expression of good will and gratitude for Britain's help to Norway during World War II.

* The first printed reference to Christmas trees appeared in Germany in 1531.

From the Christmas Tree Farmers of Ontario, who spend the first half of their web page trying to keep the environmental cases' little heads from exploding, then get to this ....

Where does the tradition of evergreens at Christmas originate?

Legends tell of the decorated tree used in winter celebrations long before the advent of Christianity. Plants and trees that remained green all year had a special meaning for people during winter. Just as people today decorate their homes at Christmas with pine, spruce and fir trees, ancient people hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows.

In many countries people believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits and illness. Egyptians brought green palm branches into their homes in late December as a symbol of growing things. Romans trimmed evergreen trees with trinkets and topped them with an image of their sun god to celebrate Saturnalia. Druid sorcerers hung golden apples and lit candles on oak trees to celebrate the winter solstice.

In the middle ages, the feast of Adam and Eve was held on December 24. Its symbol was the Paradise Tree, a fir tree hung with red apples.

It is generally agreed, however, that the use of an evergreen tree as part of the Christian Christmas celebration started 400 years ago in Germany and spread to most of northern Europe by the l9th century.

Canada was first introduced to the Christmas tree in 1781 in Sorel, Quebec, by a German immigrant, Baron Friederick von Riedesel. The Baron's tree was a balsam fir cut from the dense forest of Quebec and was decorated with myriads of white candles.

The Christmas tradition that is celebrated in Canada today has borrowed many customs from many lands, but families who have come from all over the world have all adopted the Christmas tree as the symbol and centerpiece of the festive season. As it has for centuries, the evergreen still symbolizes our belief in renewed life and the hope and faith that lives in all mankind, regardless of race or creed.

Just so everyone knows how and where our traditions come from, I'm going to do a mini-series on Christmas; the day that dares not speak it's name.

Italics MINE

P.S. The Kyoto Scam does not allow anyone to claim carbon credits for reforestation between 1990 and 2008. Now we know why. Our cultural affection for healthy carbon sinks in our living rooms every year is ignored by the world's carbon-police to make the American numbers look bad. This western tradition of ours is a benefit the planet.

(pass it on)


At 7:58 PM, Blogger Zen Wizard said...

Good article!

At 2:52 PM, Blogger talk talk talk said...

How come only American numbers -- are there no Canadian factoids available?

At 5:04 PM, Blogger Blair said...

Not that I was able to find on short notice. I've noticed that about most internet statistics I've tried to find. The U.S. is far more open with their info than we are.

At 5:01 PM, Blogger ric ottaiano said...

if you don't mind, i'd like to link your two Christmas posts to my site...


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