DAILY Photo by Gary Lloyd|
Alex Lloyd, 3, admires the family Christmas tree after helping to decorate it.
O, Christmas Tree
Roots date back to Germany; poinsettia has Hispanic origin
By Sheryl Marsh
DAILY Staff Writer
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For many people Christmas wouldn't be complete without a decorated tree and blooming poinsettias. Collectively, local merchants have sold hundreds of live and artificial trees and poinsettias.
David Wallace, operations manager at Lowe's in Decatur, said the store sold hundreds of trees. Patricia Webster, Kmart human resource manager, said the Decatur store sold more than 500 artificial trees.
But many people have long forgotten, or do not know, the religious origin of today's favorite household decoration in Christian and secular homes — the Christmas tree.
Reportedly, a monk from Credition in Devonshire, England, went to Germany to teach the word of God during the seventh century. Historians report that he did good works and spent a lot of time in Thuringia, which later became the hub of the Christmas tree decoration industry.
The monk reportedly used the triangular shape of the fir tree to demonstrate the Holy Trinity, according to historical accounts.
People started hanging trees upside-down from ceilings at Christmas in central Europe to symbolize Christianity. The first decorated tree was at Riga, Latvia, in 1510, and Martin Luther reportedly decorated a small tree with candles to show children how stars twinkled in darkness.
German settlers are credited with bringing the Christmas tree to the United States.
In 1851, the first Christmas tree stand was set up on a street corner in New York City.
By the 1800s, people were standing trees on floors and decorating them with tidbits of everything. Small toys were popular ornaments. Before standing trees on the floor, people placed them on tables due to limited decorations.
During the 1900s, trees were decorated by themes, such as a color scheme of ribbons and balls or a topical idea like an Oriental or an Egyptian tree.
In the 1880s, Germany, in an effort to conserve its fir trees, began producing a popular goose feather tree. In the United States, the Addis Brush Co. is credited with creating the first artificial brush trees. These trees could hold heavier decorations than the feather tree.
The world saw a dramatic change in the traditional tree when silver aluminum trees arrived in store windows in the 1960s. The "silver pine" tree was designed to have a revolving light source under it to reflect various colors. The tree didn't need decorations.
In 1970, however, the world turned back to green artificial trees. Today, pre-lit trees are the most coveted.
Wallace and Webster said pre-lit trees are good sellers at their stores.
The poinsettia appears to have no religious roots — but does have a legend — and is the plant of choice for many during the holiday season.
Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, appointed by President Andrew Jackson in the 1820s, reportedly introduced the poinsettia to the United States. Poinsett was wandering along the countryside in Mexico looking for new plant species. In 1828, he found a shrub with large red flowers growing by a road. He reportedly took leaves from the plant and brought them back to South Carolina to a greenhouse.
The poinsettia legend embraces Pepita, who had no gift to present the Christ Child at Christmas Eve services. Her cousin, Pedro, told her that no matter how humble the gift, if given in love, it would be acceptable.
Pepita knelt by the roadside and fashioned a bouquet of weeds. In the chapel when she approached the altar, she put the bouquet by the manger scene. The weeds burst into a brilliant red and from that time the flowers were known as Flowers of the Holy Night, for they bloomed each year during the Christmas season.
John McBride, owner of McBride's Florist, said his shop has sold 855 poinsettias this season and he is still counting.
"People buy so many because they're pretty and they're Christmas flowers," McBride said. "We sold more red than anything else."
(Information for this story came from Christmas Archives, the University of Illinois Extension Service and The Garden Helper.)
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