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Harrison Christmas tree marks 45 years
Written by Jim Robertson   
Tuesday, November 27, 2012 9:41 PM

Time to decorate the Christmas tree.

The use of evergreens for this purpose and similar celebrations goes back in antiquity.
King Tut never had a Christmas tree, but the use of green palm leaves often was used in Egyptian culture to symbolize a birth.

The early Romans used evergreens in much the same way for their festival of Saturnalia, an agricultural celebration saluting new life.

So whether you are decorating a pine, fir, spruce or PVC tree, you are continuing a tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages in Central Europe when Germanic people cut evergreen trees and took them inside their homes in anticipation of spring and new life.

Tradition has it that Martin Luther, struck by the beauty of snow-covered evergreen trees shimmering in the moonlight, set up a fir tree in his home, and lit candles on it to tell his children about Christ’s birth.

The tradition of the yuletide tree probably made its way to America through the Hessian soldiers serving with the British during the Revolution or with German settlers immigrating to Pennsylvania and Ohio in the early 1800s.

Puritans tried their best

The custom spread slowly. The Puritans, those riotous funseekers, banned the celebration of Christmas in New England.  As late as 1870, schools stayed open in Boston on Christmas and students who stayed home were sometimes expelled.

The White House Christmas tree tradition was thought to have been started by 14th President, Franklin Pierce, during his term from 1853 to 1857.

In 1889, President Benjamin Harrison, proclaimed the tree to be a long standing part of the mansion’s tradition. Teddy Roosevelt refused to have a tree in the White House as a show of conservation. It is reported that two of his sons snuck one into their room.

Christmas at Camelot
The official White House tree has not always been on public display. The Kennedy family chose to place the tree in the Blue Room which was one of the areas accessible to the public.

The official tree has a theme each year, started by Mrs. Kennedy and chosen by the First Lady.

By 1900, one in five families had a Christmas tree, and 20 years later the custom had become almost universal throughout the land.

The concept of the tree farm was born during the Depression when landscapers who couldn’t sell their growing stock started to cut the trees and sell them.

The cultivated trees were more in demand since they were more symmetrical than many specimens found wild in the woods.

Growing tradition
Why all the tree talk? Because this Saturday evening at 6:30 pm, the spectacular Harrison Christmas Tree will officially be lit.

The 60-foot-tall spruce, which has been at its location for 45 years, will be the climax to the annual parade, arrival of Santa, and other activities.

The long-term forecast is for daytime temps in the 50s so it shouldn’t be that chilly Saturday evening.

Besides what other excuse do you need to come out and drink some hot chocolate?

Parade is at 5 p.m. and there will be crafters, pictures with Santa, entertainment and other goodies in the downtown area.

Jim Robertson is a longtime Harrison resident, a member of Harrison City Council, and a weekly columnist for The Harrison Press.