Amid world pressures that range from mass destruction of civilians in Syria to America leading the world off a financial cliff to shrinking polar caps; I was determined that I was not going to let the dire condition of the world to dampen the spirit of the season. I loaded up my granddaughter and with Bonnie and my daughter in tow we left for what is becoming a traditional trip to Hot Springs for a Christmas visit.
Last week I asked where the Nativity Sets had gone. While they are absent from the shelves of major department stores I am happy to report that the true story of Christmas is alive on the lawns of families and on public grounds between Farmerville and Hot Springs. The attack on the Holiday has met its’ match in the deep South.
There is nothing more special during the Christmas season than to look into the eyes of a three year old and see total innocence and wonderment. The shimmering lights of a Christmas tree reflected in these bright eyes adds a sense of optimism that assures us that the world will actually survive. As I looked at the huge beautifully decorated tree in the lobby of the Arlington Hotel I thought of how this rich symbol of our holiday came to be such a common expression of our Christmas season. It was not a short time coming.
There is evidence that the use of evergreen trees and garlands date back to ancient Egypt, China and the Hebrews. Evergreens were seen as symbols of eternal life and would be used to decorate in these countries several thousands of years ago. Pagan Europe would worship trees and the special bond with evergreens continued after conversion to Christianity. Scandinavians decorated their homes and barns with evergreen branches at New Years to ward off the devil.
Then in 1441 trade guilds began erecting decorated trees in the guild offices in Germany and Latvia. Sweets decorated the trees and were placed there for the guild apprentices and children. Later trees would be erected in town squares where dancing and merriment took place. Following the renaissance the upper nobility of Germany put trees in their homes and the tradition we have today was formed.
A couple of areas in America claim as the birth of the tree. A German prisoner of war in 1777 is said to have erected a small tree in prison while a German community in Pennsylvania claim that they erected the first tree in America in 1817. This is where my love of the tree was branded into my psyche. My grandmother immigrated to the Tahoe Basin in 1900 from Germany. In my mother’s early years in Nevada my grandfather would place little candle holders on the tree and light them for a few minutes before they had a chance to set the tree on fire. She spoke of wonderment as the children watched the candles twinkling on the tree. Electric lights took the place of the candles but care still had to be taken as dried trees would easily ignite. An unfortunate result of this danger plus the ease of tree erection prompted the introduction of the artificial tree.
The person that did not have the opportunity to go out and cut a tree with their father has missed a special moment. The smell of an evergreen filling the home and the stinging needles as the tree is erected is priceless. Of course the most special time when decorating the tree was the last ornament to go on. It was all ways the tree topper in the shape of a star to depict the star of Bethlehem.
Last week began the Jewish observance of their special holiday by lighting the menorah candle and to those celebrating, Happy Hanukah.


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