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A Short History of Christmas Tree Decorations and Traditions

It was Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, who set one up a Christmas tree in Windsor Castle sometime in the late 1840s. But there are a report of Christmas trees appearing in the United States years before the royal’s set up their tree.

Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Charles Follen, a professor at Harvard College, in the year 1835 is recognized as having put up a Christmas tree in his home. It is said that he cut off the top of a spruce and decorated it with paper ornaments and candles for his 3 year old son.

Twelve years later August Imgard, a tailor in Wooster, Ohio is credited with the first decorated Christmas tree. His first tree was placed in the Imgard home, stood on a revolving platform and as the tree turned slowly, a hidden music box played a Christmas song. August was born in the Bavarian mountains in Germany and came to America relocating to Ohio before he was 20 years old. He is also credited for introducing the first candy canes to Wooster, OH way back in 1847. They were referred to as sugar “crooks”. The first historical reference to the candy cane being in America dates back to 1847, when he decorated the Christmas tree in his home with the candy canes for his nieces and nephews. It took another half century before someone added stripes to the canes. If you saw Christmas cards produced before 1900, they depict plain white canes. The stripes did not appear on the canes in picture/ cards until early in the 20th century.

“The American Confectioners’ Association officially recognizes Imgard as the first ever to put candy canes on a Christmas tree.”

August Mother’s recipe for a cookie called Kuchens was used to bake these cookies which were hung on the tree for ornaments each decorated with brown sugar. Extras were baked for snacks when guest arrived. Another ornament on the tree at the time was gilded nuts; inside their shells were messages of warm greetings and poems.

Imgard is buried in the Wooster Cemetery where a decorated tree is placed on his gravesite every Christmas.

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, Americans purchased more than 40 million Xmas trees last year. Plus approximately 51 million artificial trees are brought out of the attics or garages each year, totaling nearly 91 million reasons to believe that putting up a Christmas tree is an American tradition that is not about to go away anytime soon.

The first Christmas tree skirts were not decorative at all. They were generally mats placed under the trees to catch sap and wax drippings.

As time went on, tree skirts were handmade to add a decorative touch to the tree. Today, you can find commercial manufactured and homemade tree skirts in every color or theme imaginable from sports themed for those die-hard fans to elegant. Materials used can range from anything material imaginable; including lace, velvet or satins. And with the materials manufactured today even the cotton prints have become extraordinary. They can have metallic threads woven into the material or sparkles throughout.

A Xmas tree skirt is a personal choice to be made by each and every one of us. You can choose traditional prints, non-traditional themed designs; animal prints, Southwest designs, embroidery or needlepoint. It can be made to match your mood or your decor. They are as individual as each of us.

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