Have fun decorating the tree, but don’t forget the pickle

Christmas trees have a long history. It is said the evergreen fir tree had been used by pagans and Christians for thousands of years. Pagans first used the branches to decorate their homes during winter solstice to keep evil away and as a reminder spring would still come. The Romans used fir trees to decorate their temples. Christians believe they symbolize everlasting life with God.

A picture from Germany in 1521 shows a tree being pulled through the streets by a man dressed as a bishop. He was riding behind on a horse, possibly representing St. Nicholas. There is also a picture dated 1570. It is of a small tree in Bremen Germany. It is decorated with apples, nuts, dates, pretzels and paper flowers.

Some historical records suggest the first person said to have brought a Christmas tree into a house may have been the 16th century German preacher Martin Luther. The records tell the story that on Christmas Eve he was walking through a forest writing a sermon when he looked up and saw bright stars shining through the tree branches. It was such a glorious sight that he went home and told his children it reminded him of Jesus, who left the stars of heaven, to come to earth on that first Christmas. It is said he chopped down a tree and brought it into their home. He tied candles on the tree to depict the stars and their everlasting light.

The custom of decorating an evergreen tree for Christmas spread throughout Europe and families decorated their trees with fruits, nuts, sweets and paper creations. In the 1800s, the Muller-Greiner glassworks began making glass ornaments. The mouth-blown ornaments quickly became popular across Europe and Great Britain. In 1846, a newspaper image showed Queen Victoria’s Christmas tree to be completely decorated with glass ornaments from Germany. In the 1880s, F.W. Woolworth discovered German glass ornaments and began the multimillion-dollar business of importing them to the United States.

During World War II, due to shortages of materials needed to support war efforts, the ornament caps and wires that were usually made of metal and wire, were instead made of paper and string.

We put up our tree this week; it is a Fraser fir. We found this species holds its needles nicely. The tree is trimmed with adorable little gingerbread houses, cherries on wires and candy canes (from Old Glory Candy). Decorated cookies are tied onto the branches. Very old garland made of colorful life savers and other Christmas candy adds to the whimsical theme. The multi-colored lights shine beautifully on our lovely old family heirloom ornaments. Every year my hubby says, “Lorna, this is the prettiest tree we’ve ever had.”

One custom that some say is a German tradition is still popular in many homes. The last ornament placed on the tree is done when the children are in bed. It is a green pickle and it is hidden among the other ornaments. Looking for the pickle slows down the rush for opening presents. The children will search through ornaments given to them or made by them as they look for the pickle. The lucky child who finds the pickle ornament sometimes receives a special treat.

Berrien Springs, Michigan (also known as the Christmas Pickle Capital of the World), has an annual pickle festival held during the early part of December.

A popular plant during the Christmas season is the poinsettia. Have you ever heard the old Mexican legend about how poinsettias and Christmas came together?

A poor little Mexican girl named Pepita had no present to give the baby Jesus at the Christmas Eve service. Her cousin Pedro told her even the smallest gift, given by someone who loves Him, will make Jesus happy. So, Pepita picked a small handful of weeds from the roadside. When she placed the bouquet at the bottom of the nativity scene, the bouquet of weeds burst into bright red flowers. Everyone who saw them were sure they had seen a miracle. They became known as “Flowers of the Holy Night.”

The shape of the poinsettia flower and leaves are sometimes thought as a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem which led the Wise Men to Jesus. The red colored leaves symbolize the blood of Christ. The white leaves represent His purity.

Please note: The Shawano County Historical Society is hosting Christmas at Heritage Park from 5-9 p.m. on Dec. 20-21. There will be caroling, musical presentations, Zachow Depot tours, refreshments and so much more. Karen Grover and Elaine Knope decorated a lovely old-fashioned tree with old ornaments, real lead tinsel, candles in holders and other decorations from Christmases past. It is located in the Old Tabor Church. See you there!

Question: Name the three flower shops located in Shawano in 1991. (Answer on Page A5.)

Clothesline Conversation Answer: Mason’s Flowers, Inc., Ollie’s Flowers and Village Garden Flower Shop

Lorna Marquardt is a former mayor of Shawano.