One thing is certain: we sure do love our Christmas trees. It’s like it’s in our emotional DNA. Well as it turns out it just may be, or at the very least it’s part of our multigenerational tradition that spans hundreds of years and seems to bring about a feeling of happiness for many.
Our friends at the National Christmas tree association tell me there are between 25 and 30 million real, fresh Christmas trees sold every year in the United States.
North Carolina alone sells 5-6 million trees each year, and South Carolina sells a good number. This production translates to more than $250 million in retail business annually. We also have more than 1,500 Christmas tree growers in the Carolinas.
Farmers are well known for doing good for their communities, and tree growers are no different. The South Carolina Christmas Tree Association has adopted the Trees for Troops program, where growers donate new trees for our troops.
For many, the quest for the perfect Christmas tree starts near Thanksgiving. Family traditions vary on the timing; some people enjoy having the tree up the entire month of December or even before, and some families put their trees up just a few days before Dec. 25 and leave them up for 12 days after Christmas. I have even met some folks who leave them up for months. It all depends on what you want to do.
I love seeing cars, vans and SUVs driving back from the mountains with Christmas trees tied on top. I know their homes are going to smell of the fresh cut trees and everyone is going to have an excellent time trimming the tree with their favorite ornaments.
Have you ever wondered how this tradition got its start? Curiosity got the best of me, so I traveled back in history for a lesson.
Going way back, we know that the ancient Egyptians, Chinese and Hebrews used evergreen trees, wreaths and garland to symbolize eternal life.
As it turns out, however, we mostly have our German and British heritage to thank for the modern aspects of this most joyous of holiday activities. While it has changed over the years, the essence of the experience remains remarkably unchanged.
In the early 18th century, the custom of Christmas trees had made its way to parts or Germany, and in the 19th century, it was a regular part of the German culture.
Britain’s King George III married the German Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, and it was she who first displayed the Christmas Tree at a party for Children in Britain. At the time, Princess Victoria was 13, and on Christmas Eve 1832 she entered into her journal: “After dinner... we then went into the drawing-room near the dining-room.... There were two large round tables on which were placed two trees hung with lights and sugar ornaments. All the presents being placed around the tree.”
There are two fascinating points to this charming story. The first being that Charlotte, North Carolina and Mecklenburg County, North Carolina are both named for Queen Charlotte.
The second being that Princes Victoria became Queen Victoria in 1837 when she was 18, which was only five years after her journal post. She would marry her German first cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotham in 1840, and he would import the fresh green Christmas trees from his homeland to decorate Windsor Castle.
It did not take long for this amazing display of Christmas merriment to be documented and shared with the world.
It was an image of a beautifully decorated tree surrounded by loving family members, not so different from what we hope for today.
So now we know how it all got started. We are all aware what happened next, just look around.
Yes, there is more, but that’s all we have room for this time.
Carl White is the executive producer and host of the award winning syndicated TV show “Carl White’s Life In the Carolinas.” The weekly show is in its seventh year of syndication and can be seen in the Greenville, Spartanburg viewing market on WLOS ABC 5 a.m. Saturdays and 1:30 p.m. Sundays at WMYA My 40. Visit www.lifeinthecarolinas.com, email White at Carl@lifeinthecarolinas.com.