December 3rd, 2015
Blog post by Stewart Plein, Rare Book Librarian.
From its early origins in Germany, where a cut and decorated tree was called “Tannenbaum,” to its arrival in this country in the mid-19th century, Christmas trees have become an essential component of our holiday celebrations.
Selecting the perfect tree was always the first step, as these photos, above and below, suggest. Charity sales have long been a part of the modern approach to tree shopping, while the Helvetia man, below, with saw in hand, follows the old tradition of cutting his own tree.
Popcorn garlands have long been easy and popular do-it-yourself crafts for decorating the tree. Below, a mother and child sit near their popcorn clad Christmas tree.
These two cousins, above, are holding their Christmas gifts next to a tree draped with a popcorn garland while beautiful hand blown glass ornaments from Germany are suspended between ropes of popcorn on the tree below.
Shiny, silvery, store bought tinsel was an attractive alternative to the time consuming, homemade popcorn garland as displayed on the trees below. There were lots of gifts for this toddler in Grafton.
Tinsel and the old fashioned bulb lights appear to be the only decorations for the tree but this happy baby surrounded with gifts doesn’t seem to mind.
Everything on this tree in Hinton at the C&O Shop in 1957 is shiny: tinsel, garland, and tree skirt!
All these photos and more are available on West Virginia History OnView: Photographs from the West Virginia and Regional History Center: http://wvhistoryonview.org
How many decorating traditions will be on your tree this year?
All images courtesy West Virginia and Regional History Center: WV History OnView
- Banner image: Decorating the Christmas tree in Courthouse Square. The Morgantown Fire Department temporarily loaned their fire truck and ladder so townspeople could place the star on top of the Courthouse Christmas tree.
- Kiwanis Club Christmas Tree Sale, Morgantown, W. V. ca. 1960.
- Man in Helvetia, WV, with saw and hand cut Christmas tree, approximately 1900.
- A woman holding a baby, while sitting near a popcorn draped Christmas tree, approximately 1900.
- Cousins Celebrating Christmas, Helvetia, W. V.
- Olga Aegerter Holtkamp and baby place decorations on the Christmas tree.
- Child and Gifts in front of the Christmas tree in Grafton, W. V.
- Baby Sits with Toys in Front of a Christmas tree, Martinsburg, W. V.
- C&O Shop’s Christmas Party, 1957, Hinton, W. V.