Tradition – “the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, esp. by word of mouth or by practice: a story that has come down to us by popular tradition”
Traditions are an important reminder of who we are, where we came from, what we believe, and what we value. We pass them along to our children who one day will find that they are a little less alone because of them.
One of our most popular traditions of course is Christmas. Christians celebrate this day as a holy day, the birth of Christ. Others celebrate it as more of a secular holiday. But all recognize it as a tradition – a time of good will, a time to remember and celebrate our family and friends both near and far, those who are still with us and those whom we’ve lost.
The Christmas tree, traditionally a live evergreen, was first used to decorate homes during winter long before Christmas became a holiday. Evergreens were believed to keep witches, ghosts, evil spirits and illnesses away from homes where they were displayed.
Germany is credited with the traditional celebration of decorating trees for Christmas and bringing them into their homes. And by 1890, Christmas ornaments were arriving in America from Germany and the Christmas tree became popular in the U.S. While live trees are the tradition, many artificial trees have also become popular with some.
Traditional Christmas tree decorations include: lights, ornaments, tree toppers, garland, and nativity scenes. Many of these decorations are ones that have been handed down from one generation to another. Others may be recently purchased or newly purchased. Many people add one or more new decoration each year while others may prefer only vintage or hand-made decorations. Certain themes, such as only one or more colors, have also become a popular way of decorating a Christmas tree.
It is believed that Martin Luther, the 16th century Protestant reformer was the first to add lighted candles to the tree. He wanted to recapture the sparkling stars on a dark night and how the stars illuminated his walk home, so he brought a tree into his home and placed it in the center of the room. He then wired the tree branches with lighted candles.
In the early 20th century most Americans were using homemade ornaments on their trees such as popcorn strings decorated with dyed bright colors and laced with berries and nuts. Electricity changed the tree to include electric lights and trees began to glow in town squares and in homes all across America, making the Christmas tree, an American tradition.
Many cities claim to be the first city to have a Christmas tree in America including: Windsor Locks, a city in Connecticut. They claim that a Hessian soldier put up a Christmas tree in 1777 while he was imprisoned at the Noden-Reed House, making it the first Christmas tree in New England.