A Bremen guild chronicle of 1570 reports that a small tree decorated with "apples, nuts, dates, pretzels and paper flowers" was erected in the guild-house for the benefit of the guild members' children, who collected the dainties on Christmas Day. In 1584, the pastor and chronicler Balthasar Russow in his Chronica der Provinz Lyfflandt (1584) wrote of an established tradition of setting up a decorated spruce at the market square, where the young men "went with a flock of maidens and women, first sang and danced there and then set the tree aflame".
Several cities in the United States with German connections lay claim to that country's first Christmas tree: Windsor Locks, Connecticut, claims that a Hessian soldier put up a Christmas tree in 1777 while imprisoned at the Noden-Reed House, while the "First Christmas Tree in America" is also claimed by Easton, Pennsylvania, where German settlers purportedly erected a Christmas tree in 1816. In his diary, Matthew Zahm of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, recorded the use of a Christmas tree in 1821, leading Lancaster to also lay claim to the first Christmas tree in America. Other accounts credit Charles Follen, a German immigrant to Boston, for being the first to introduce to America the custom of decorating a Christmas tree. August Imgard, a German immigrant living in Wooster, Ohio, is said to be the first to popularize the practice of decorating a tree with candy canes. In 1847, Imgard cut a blue spruce tree from a woods outside town, had the Wooster village tinsmith construct a star, and placed the tree in his house, decorating it with paper ornaments, gilded nuts and Kuchen. German immigrant Charles Minnegerode accepted a position as a professor of humanities at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1842, where he taught Latin and Greek. Entering into the social life of the Virginia Tidewater, Minnigerode introduced the German custom of decorating an evergreen tree at Christmas at the home of law professor St. George Tucker, thereby becoming another of many influences that prompted Americans to adopt the practice at about that time. An 1853 article on Christmas customs in Pennsylvania defines them as mostly "German in origin", including the Christmas tree, which is "planted in a flower pot filled with earth, and its branches are covered with presents, chiefly of confectionary, for the younger members of the family." The article distinguishes between customs in different states however, claiming that in New England generally "Christmas is not much celebrated", whereas in Pennsylvania and New York it is.
In order to help ensure your Christmas tree lasts through the holidays, you need to do your due diligence. Before you purchase a tree, make sure to give it a smell test. A fresh pine tree should have pliable needles and exude a strong scent. The bark is another indicator of freshness. If you run your hand along the trunk and you feel sticky sap, that is a sign that the tree is still in good shape.
After writing the original version of this guide in fall 2016, we carefully disassembled and packed our pick at the time—a very similar National Tree model, the PEDD1-312LD-75X—in its original box and shipped it to Los Angeles for long-term use. After the long journey (in which the tree was jostled enough that it arrived with its top spike and branches sticking out of a corner of the box), it sat on a garage shelf for about 10 months, enduring temperatures over 100 degrees and gathering a little dust and grit without any plastic seal around the box or the contents. (Yes, we fell short of following our own advice on storage.)
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Add simple elegance by flocking a premade pinecone wreath. In a well-ventilated area, spray several layers of canned flocking on the wreath, allowing each layer to dry completely. To dislay as a coffee table piece, add adhesive-backed felt pads to the bottom of a round mirror that is slightly larger than your wreath. Place wreath on top of mirror. Add glass votives.
A Balsam Hill artificial Christmas tree brings all the holiday cheer of a live tree to your home without the hassle or messes that come with them. With our hinged branches and lightweight, collapsible stands, setup is simple. Your Christmas tree will be ready to decorate in no time! We also offer both prelit and unlit options, so you can choose to whether you prefer the convenience of never having to set up lights or keep the option to change what type of lights you use from year to year.