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Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas Tree Fun Facts

The joys of trying to keep cats safe during the Holidays

Every year we go through the rearranging and the mess of setting up the Christmas tree and my family deals with my temporary Scrooge attitude about the sanity of why in the world people drag a dead tree into their homes.  But once the tree is up and the trail of needles through the front door swept away I usually get over it and anticipate our little lighting ceremony.

For me that involves a silent prayer of thanks when all the lights work the first time around without too much of a hassle.  The business of Christmas lights is to me, a landfill disaster, since it is inevitable that 50 of the 100 bulbs will die for no apparent reason on some of the stings.  Of course, the manufacturers make the bulb sizes just a hair different every year so it becomes impossible to just replace bulbs with those on other strings and you're forced to go out and buy new.  This money racket drives me crazy, especially since we fall right into the game by keeping with the spirit of the season and just doing what we must to get the lights up and working.

Enough with the rant.
I came across this cute little book called "Weird Christmas" by Joey Green.
It explains a lot about why people do what they do.  Traditions are interesting within societies.  People do as those before them have done without question.  For those who want to know the 'why' behind our actions, this is a great, entertaining read.

Bringing greenery into the home can be traced back to ancient Egypt.  That climate utilized palm fronds.  In ancient Germany, fir trees (tannenbaum) were considered fertility symbols because their green thrived throughout the cold winter months.  The Church had a problem with pagan rituals, therefore in A.D. 575 Bishop Martin of Bracae in Germany banned the use of all greenery during Christmas.  In efforts to take control of pagan practices, by 601, Pope Gregory instructed the festive decoration of churches.  By 700, Germans began bringing a tree into their homes during the winter solstice.  Martin Luther is said to be the first to put candles on a tree to simulate the twinkling stars of the heavens.

Some Christians believe a Christmas tree is a form of idolatry.  In the Bible, the prophet Jeremiah warns the Israelites against worshipping idols carved from trees.  Interpretation of what the Bible is really saying may always be up for argument.  We have to understand the difference between literal and symbolic.

The custom became popular in England back in 1840 when Prince Albert, who was German, married Queen Victoria.  They set up a tree in Windsor Castle and the popularity spread.  The custom was brought to America during the Revolutionary War by Hessian mercenaries and later by German settlers (initially in Pennsylvania).

Woolworth's sold the first mass-produced Christmas ornaments in 1880.
Christmas tree light bulbs were first developed around 1890 by an employee of Thomas Edison, Edward Johnson.  Ten years later, the Ever-Ready Company of New York, began to mass produce strings of lights to the public.

Fifteen-year-old Albert Sadacca from New York City, developed safety lights around 1917, and went on to found The NOMA Electric Company, the largest Christmas lighting company in the world.

The annual tradition of the lighting of the outdoor White House Christmas tree was started in 1923 by President Calvin Coolidge.

Statistics claim ninety-four percent of Americans celebrate Christmas and eighty-three percent have a Christmas tree. A survey in 2004 found that of the 36 million Americans who bought Christmas trees, 27.1 million bought live trees and 9 million bought artificial trees.

Christmas tree farms cover approximately one million acres in the U.S. and produce enough oxygen for 18 million people. Real trees absorb carbon dioxide and other harmful gases from the environment while releasing oxygen into the air. Did you know that young, fast-growing trees release more oxygen and absorb more carbon dioxide than mature trees? And for every real Christmas tree cut down, another is planted in its place. You are supporting your local business by purchasing a live tree from a tree farm in your area. Nothing goes to waste, since once chopped down and the season is past, they are recyclable as mulch.

Those who favor artificial trees claim they are better because they are reusable and not a fire hazard.  The down side is that they eventually end up in landfills. Fake trees are produced with petroleum based plastics such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The manufacture of such plastic consumes a great deal of energy and natural resources from our environment. Older artificial trees may be contaminated with metal toxins such as lead.

Ideally, the best solution to the argument is to buy a live, potted tree which gets planted (be sure the hole is dug ahead of time before the ground freezes). Just remember that potted trees have a limited time they can be inside the dry, warmth of a home, whereas a cut tree can last up to a month. 

The top producer of Christmas trees is Clackamas County in Oregon, with 2.59 million harvested annually.

The largest live Christmas tree in the world is erected at New York City's Rockefeller Center.  This tradition began in 1931 and always uses a Norway spruce.  A tree this size is usually over fifty years old, and at least 65 feet tall and 35 feet wide.  It takes five miles of wire to string the 30,000 lights.

An interesting article in keeping you pets safe during the holidays  Click here