[Reprinted from the Daily Republican Newspaper]
This year over 36 million American families will celebrate the holidays with the fragrance and beauty of a freshly cut Fir Tree.
The tree, used as a symbol of life, is a tradition older than Christianity and not exclusive to any one religion. It's a part of a seasonal folklore that engages not only our senses of sight, touch and smell, but also our sense of tradition, hope and good will. This has been re-enacted for at leat 7,000 years.
Recent archeological discoveries have revealed that ancient Egyptians brought green palm branches into their homes on the shortest day of the year in December as a symbol of life's triumph over death.
The Romans continued the tradition and adorned their homes with evergreens during Saturnalia, a winter celebration in honor of Saturnus whom they regarded as the god of agriculture. Druid priests decorated oak trees with golden apples for their winter solstice festivities.
In the middle ages, the evergreen Paradise Tree was decorated with red apples. The evergreen was thought of then as the symbol of the Feast of Adam and Eve always held on December 24th.
The first recorded reference to the Christmas Tree dates back to the 16th century. In the Alsace-Lorraine city of Strasbourg, families both rich and poor decorated fir trees in the Chistmas season with colored paper, fruits and sweets.
The commercial uses of the Christmas Tree lot dates back to Strasbourg when older women would sell trees on the village green that harvested from nearby forests.
The tradition spread through Europe and was brought to the United States by German settlers and by Hessian mercenaries paid to fight in the Revolutionary War. In 1804 U.S. soldiers stationed at Fort Dearborn (Chicago)hauled trees from surrounding woods to the military barracks at Christmas.
Charles Minnegrode introduced the custom of decorating trees in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1842. In 1851, Mark Carr hauled two ox sleds loaded with trees from the Catskills to the streets of New York and opened the first retail Christmas Tree Lot lot in the United States.
Franklin Pierce, our 14th President, brought the Christmas tree tradition to the White House. In 1923, president Calvin Coolidge started the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony now held every year on the White House lawn.
Since 1966, members of the National Christmas Tree Association have presented a beautiful, fresh Christmas Tree to the first family. This tree is displayed each year in the Blue Room of the White House.
The cost of preparing a holiday dinner for 10 people rose to more than $30 for the first time this year.
Higher-priced turkeys were the main culprit in lifting the cost of cooking the typical fare of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, buttered rolls, peas, cranberries, cut-up carrots and celery, pumpkin pie, whipped cream, coffee and milk, the Economics Institute found.
Based on sample shopping karts across America, the Economics Institute calculated that the average feast for 10 people will cost $2.02 more than last year at $31.66. It was the fifth consecutive year the cost of the holiday meal has climbed.
For example, a 16 pound holiday bird will cost shoppers 6 percent more than last year at $13.46. Price inflation was reported for 10 of 12 menu items, with a package of stuffing the only ingredient to cost less. By comparison, the same meal cost $24.51 in 1987. The cost of the same meal was only a miniscule $3.96, in 1956. Of course, in 1956 you could still by a brand new automobile for $1,500 and the average teacher's salary in California was only $3,000.
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