December 31, 2008

Christmas Trees on New Year's


Christmas Eve, 1836, by Herman Bokum. From the American Antiquarian Society.

Tonight is New Year's Eve, and the Christmas season is coming (sadly) to an end. No more parties, no more presents, no more trees!

However, in the early 19th century, when Christmas trees first became popular in the United States, many New England families decorated them and exchanged presents on New Year's, rather than on Christmas itself. (This, according to Stephen Nissenbaum). New Year's is now more of an adult holiday, while Christmas day is focused on children and gift giving.

However, the first printed image of a Christmas tree in the U.S. was titled "Christmas Eve", and was engraved by Herman Bokum, a German immigrant who taught at Harvard. It appeared in 1836 in The Stranger's Gift, a Christmas gift book. Amazingly, you can see a facsimile of the entire book online at Google Books!

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