Do you know how the custom of celebrating Christmas began? As with many Christmas traditions, its roots go back to pagan times. Some Northern European pagans believed that the sun was a god and that he went through a yearly period of ill health in winter. They put up evergreen boughs on the winter solstice, around Dec. 21, the shortest day of the year- the evergreens reminding them of all the greenery that would grow again when the sun god regained his strength and spring arrived.
In the 1770’s, German settlers in Pennsylvania brought the first Christmas trees. In 1848, the Illustrated London News published a sketch of Queen Victoria’s Christmas tree at Windsor Castle, a gift from her German consort, Prince Albert. The image was reprinted in Philadelphia’s Godey’s Lady’s Bookand the east coast ladies went wild for the heartwarming scene, and Christmas trees became the staple of the American home.
Christmas tree lights were the idea of Thomas Edison’s assistant, Edward Johnson. In 1882, not long after Edison had invented the light bulb, Johnson hung a string of 80 red, white, and blue bulbs on the tree in his New York City home and invited journalists to come and gawk at the illuminations. Some four decades later, on Dec. 24, 1923, President Calvin Coolidge lit the National Christmas Tree, a 48-foot balsam fir decorated with 2,500 colored lights.
Traditions vary widely, but across the world, Christmas trees are a universal symbol of festive joy.
How bad is the standard cut Christmas tree? It’s not environmentalist’s worst nightmare. Growers plant up to three new seedlings for each mature tree harvested. While they grow, those trees are sucking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Be sure to choose your tree wisely, as most are sprayed with pesticides. To find a certified-organic farm near you, go to www.localharvest.org.
Your next best option is a chose-and-cut farm. These small growers are more likely to use sustainable techniques like integrated pest management, a strategy that combats bugs with methods that avoid chemical sprays.
To recycle your tree post-Christmas, find a recycling station near you at www.search.earyh911.com. Your tree will be turned into nutrient rich compost or water saving wood chips for someone’s garden.Since I live in the country, my tree will end up in the woods, as a shelter for animals.
Here are some holiday decorating ideas from using natural found materials to gift-wrapping using paper made from recycled materials or even make your own!
Wishing you and your loved ones a very happy holiday season