Friday, December 13, 2013

Advent Trees and Christmas Folliage: 7 Quick Takes (Volume VIII)

I am suddenly seized by the last-minute desire to participate in 7 Quick Takes Friday even though I am sitting amidst toast crumbs at the breakfast table with a nursing baby in my lap.

I realize that Christmas trees during Advent might seem a little pre-seasonal, but it's appropriate to plan ahead, right? Besides, I won't be posting on Christmas.

First, though, an Advent tree:


Two years ago, when I was teaching in a Lutheran school, my students begged to decorate for Christmas. I reminded them that our headmaster wanted us to remain seasonally and liturgically appropriate and to celebrate Advent. This was their solution:


My paternal great-grandparents immigrated from Norway. We still have a picture of my great-grandmother at Christmas in Norway, c. 1905. Look at their tree!


When I was young, we decorated our tree with little red apples (visible below). They kind of tie-in with the trees in the Garden of Eden, and more importantly, they weren't breakable. As my sisters and I grew up, I remained emotionally attached to the red apples. My sisters did not. Some years I managed to get apples onto the tree and some years I did not. Below is our tree (I am on the right). 


Did you know that nineteenth-century city-dwellers had to go to market to buy Christmas trees? It makes sense, of course, but I had never really thought about it. Here is some primary source evidence in nineteenth-century art:

(Russian artist Genrich Manizer)

(German artist David Jacob Jacobson)


Nineteenth-century French carolers carried trees with them, apparently.

(A detail from Gustave Brion's Christmas Singers, 1856)


Judging by the pictures I've seen, most early Christmas trees seem to have been small and located on tables.

 (First Christmas Tree in Ried, 1848, by Franz Ignaz Pollinger)


Apparently, Christmas trees did not "take-off" among non-German families in the United States until a picture of Queen Victoria's family tree was popularized in magazines. There's an interesting article about it HERE.

Enjoy the rest of this Advent season! If you are looking for non-Christmas, truly Advent music, you can listen to it online for free at Lutheran Public Radio. It's awesome.



  1. Oh, wow, that picture of your great-grandmother is wonderful. How cool that you have that!

  2. Is your great-grandmother the one in the middle?

    I have thought about Advent Management a good deal in the last few years as I am bringing the whole concept of Advent into a non-liturgical family. There is only so much you can hold back, without losing a good deal in postponing all seasonal joys until the 25th, because at that time very few will still be celebrating with you. How 'about giving the tree a name-change on Christmas Day? Perhaps certain Adventish ornaments could be removed and others added, the way some liturgically-oriented households have a nativity scene with Jesus missing until the 25th, and the magi arriving even later, as they journey from place to place around the room.

    One problem I have run up against in trying to at least postpone the Christmas tree until closer to the feast, is that the supplies at the most convenient tree-sellers' run low. I did know a family who would always go for theirs on Christmas Eve just so they might get a free one somewhere. They weren't liturgical, so they didn't have to squeeze its decorating in between church services.

    Thank you for the music link!

    1. Gretchen, yes, I think so. You're right that it's difficult to celebrate Christmas after the 25th if you want your neighbors to join in. :-) In my family, we celebrated Christmas during Advent the way that most people do, but my husband grew up with a firmer hold in liturgical tradition. In his family, they decorate advent garlands with ornaments in early or mid-December, but don't decorate the tree until Christmas Eve.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...