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Robert McNamara

Newspaper Sunday: Christmas Trees In the 1800s

By December 16, 2012

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Christmas trees started to become a widespread tradition in America in the 1840s, moving beyond German communities where the trees had been used for decades. It's probable that stories of Britain's Prince Albert making Christmas trees fashionable in British society had encouraged Americans to start bringing evergreens inside for the holiday.

In the 1840s and 1850s mentions of Christmas trees became more common in American newspapers. This week in Newspaper Sunday we look at some of those stories.

Note: The links below lead to excerpts from newspaper stories. On those pages, you can use the "persistent link" to view the entire page of the newspaper at the Chronicling America site of the Library of Congress.

  • New York Tribune, December 16, 1844: An advertisement for a new book, Kris Kringle's Christmas Tree, states "fashions change," and "Christmas trees are becoming more common than in former times."
  • New York Tribune, December 25, 1844: In a plea for Christmas charity, Horace Greeley's newspaper referred to evergreen trees decorated with little tokens for children. The article stated, "We borrow the Christmas tree from Germany."
  • New York Tribune, December 26, 1855: A story headlined "Christmas In Austria" provided extensive details about Christmas trees and their role in European celebrations.
  • Sunbury American, January 5, 1856: A description of a party given for local children in Pennsylvania town described a Christmas tree decorated with "matzebaums," ornaments made of dough in a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition.

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Illustration: Early depiction of an American Christmas tree/Light & Horton Publishers, now in public domain


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