November 27, 2013

O Tannenbaum

The Christmas tree has a long tradition in Germany dating back to at least the 16th century. Many individuals brought large trees into their houses and decorated them with candles and fruit.

Sorel Christmas tree on a stamp
In North America, the Christmas tree tradition originates in Sorel, Quebec. On Christmas Eve in 1781, a party with German and British officers took place with the main attraction of the evening being the fir tree in the corner of the dining room. The tree was lit with candles and decorated with fruit by Baroness von Riedesel, wife of German officer General Fredrick von Riedesel. Riedesel served in the Seven Years War and led soldiers from the Duchy of Brunswick during the American War of Independence, commanding German soldiers in the Saratoga Campaign.

The Christmas tree tradition added to the festive nature of Christmas activities that were celebrated in the predominantly Catholic Lower Canada (Quebec). However, in the largely protestant Upper Canada (Ontario), Christmas was not as big of a holiday as in Lower Canada. One English immigrant to Upper Canada in the 1820s observed: “I was much surprised at the cold indifference which most people showed in their observance of Christmas day – with the exception of the then few residing English families, the church was scantily attended.”

If you want to see what Christmas was like in the 19th century, you can head to the Genesee County Village and Museum on November 30 for their ‘Preparing for the Holidays’ event. Click here to find out more and to find out more about some other upcoming Christmas activities.

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