Back in time: Christmas Trees, Santa Claus and other holiday traditions

William Moelter sells Christmas trees in Stillwater at 3rd and 4th Street in Stillwater. (Photo courtesy of the Washington County Historical Society)

William Moelter sells Christmas trees in Stillwater at 3rd and 4th Street in Stillwater. (Photo courtesy of the Washington County Historical Society)

BY BRENT PETERSON – GAZETTE COLUMNIST

Christmas is nearly upon us, and all the garland, ivy and mistletoe are being hung in St. Croix valley homes as we speak. Christmas trees are being cut or purchased to adorn the living rooms or parlors of Stillwater. There are many Christmas traditions that are followed throughout the area, and many of us never knew where these traditions come from.

One of the most lasting of Christmas traditions is that of the Christmas tree. The first reference to the Christmas tree was in 1605 in Strasbourg, Germany. It was German immigrants who brought the idea of the Christmas tree to the United States. By 1848 there were Christmas trees selling in the markets in Philadelphia, and three years later it was Mark Carr who sold the first Christmas trees from the New York City docks. By 1880, there were more than 400 tree merchants in New York.

The Christmas trees were different that what we know today. The true Victorian tree was a table-top tree. The floor-to-ceiling tree that most of us have today is a purely American tradition. The table-top tree was made popular when an etching of the royal family appeared in the Illustrated News, which showed Queen Victoria and Prince Albert with their family gathered around their table-top Christmas tree in Windsor Castle.

Want to read more? Grab a copy of the Gazette for Dec. 6, 2013, available at newsstands through Tuesday, Dec. 10, or at our office, 1931 Curve Crest Blvd., Stillwater. Brent Peterson is executive director of the Washington County Historical Society in Stillwater.

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