When you brought home this year’s Christmas tree, you and the family most likely spent an evening decorating it with lights, store-bought and homemade ornaments, a star or angel topper, and maybe even tinsel. If you’re more traditional, you may have even included a popcorn string. But have you ever wondered why we started decorating our Christmas trees in the first place? While the origins of the Christmas tree are uncertain, we’ve used the evergreen fir to celebrate winter festivals, both pagan and Christian, for thousands of years. The tree has represented many things, including the winter solstice, Saturnalia, and everlasting life with God. During the 1500s in Germany, people brought full pine trees, called paradise trees, into their homes to celebrate the Name Day of Adam and Eve on Dec. 24. The families decorated the tree with apples and gingerbread. Before long, glassmakers began crafting small ornaments to hang on the trees. In Victorian times, trees were even decorated with candles!
Over time, paradise trees evolved into Christmas trees. In the 18th and 19th centuries, when many Germans immigrated to the United States, they brought the tradition with them. However, the practice of decorating a pine tree with apples didn’t quite catch on. Then, In the winter of 1841, Queen Victoria of England requested a Christmas tree at Windsor Castle for her husband, Prince Albert, who was of German descent. The Queen thought the tree would be a nice gesture, and the London News published a story about the royal Christmas tree in 1848. The tradition quickly spread throughout Europe and North America.
When Christmas trees first rose to prominence in the United States, they were often decorated with homemade ornaments, while many German-Americans continued to use apples, nuts, and marzipan cookies. Popcorn joined later, dyed bright colors and interlaced with berries and nuts. Electricity brought lights, making it possible for Christmas trees to glow for days on end. And with that, Christmas trees quickly became an American tradition.
EASY HOLIDAY PARTY CHEESE FONDUE
• ¾ cup dry white wine • 1 tablespoon cornstarch • 1 (8-ounce) package sliced Swiss cheese • 1 clove garlic • Salt to taste • Foods to dip (apple slices, bread cubes, roasted vegetables, etc.) 1. In a large bowl, whisk together wine and cornstarch. 2. Chop cheese slices into small, uniform pieces. 3. Rub clove of garlic all over the sides and bottom of a heavy-bottomed pot, then discard. 4. Heat wine mixture over medium- low heat in the pot until thick and bubbling. Add some cheese and slowly whisk. When nearly smooth, Directions
add more cheese and whisk gently. Repeat until all cheese is melted. If mixture seems too tight, add 1 tablespoon wine.
5. Season with salt and serve
immediately. Keep pot on low heat to keep the fondue dippable.
(Recipe inspired by PinchofYum.com.)
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