The Duluth Community Christmas Tree

A Duluth Holiday Tradition

By Kyle Chisholm

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in Duluth… downtown businesses have decorated their storefronts, the Christmas City of the North Parade has marched, Bentleyville has opened, Thanksgiving has passed us by, and we’ve even had a couple of winter storms with more in the forecast. Soon we’ll be skating and skiing and fat tire biking our way to the New Year!

Yet one of the most notable (and classic) signs that the holidays have arrived is the placing of the Duluth Community Christmas Tree in Lake Superior Plaza, on the corner of Lake Ave and Superior Street. You may not know it but Duluth’s Community Christmas Tree has been a city tradition for the past 32 years!

We’re going to learn a bit about Duluth’s tree, but first let’s explore a general history of the Christmas tree.

A Brief History of the Christmas Tree

Interestingly enough, celebrating the winter solstice with greenery is a thousand-year old tradition, going as far back as the Egyptians, Romans, and other Europeans peoples who celebrated the increasing power and return of the sun after the winter solstice. For many of these people, green was synonymous with life and in Europe the greenery of choice was the evergreen tree. Branches were usually hung over doors and in various placed inside the home. As Christianity spread through Europe the evergreen decorating tradition was adopted and blended into the celebration of Christmas.

Queen Victoria Christmas Tree History

An engraving published in the 1840s created a craze for Christmas trees. Image: BBC

Exactly when entire trees were first used as Christmas decorations is difficult to pin down. It was in Germany that the use of an entire tree inside the house was fairly commonplace. Early decorations included apples, nuts and other sugar wafers.

What we now recognize as the classic Christmas tree today began to take shape in 1848 when Queen Victoria of England invited her husband Prince Albert of Germany to decorate a tree. Some of the decorations that Albert used included ornaments, candles, and an angel placed at the top. News of Queen Victoria’s magnificently decorated Christmas tree quickly spread through England and eventually to the United States.

Related: The Best Gifts Aren’t Things… They’re Experiences

With the advent of tree lights in 1882 by Edward Johnson, an assistant to Thomas Edison, Christmas trees became safer to have in the home and by the turn of the century, many American families adopted this new holiday tradition. The lighting and decoration of Christmas trees is now one of the most iconic winter traditions and impressive tree displays are featured in prominent places like: The White House, Rockefeller Center in New York City, and our very own City of Duluth.

Now back to our tree…

The 2016 Duluth Community Christmas Tree

Duluth Community Christmas Tree

Duluth’s 2016 Community Christmas Tree being installed in Duluth’s Downtown Lake Superior Plaza. Image: KBJR

On October 12, Minnesota Power announced it had begun its search for this year’s tree along with some specific requirements. The tree had to be within 10 miles of the city’s downtown, be at least 40 feet tall and, of course, be a spruce or pine. Ultimately, a 55 year old white spruce was selected from the Lincoln Park home of Susan Dierks. On November 3rd, the tree was transported to Lake Superior Plaza on a large flat bed truck and hoisted into place by a giant crane. According to Minnesota Power’s Facebook page the spruce was 60-feet tall before the trunk was trimmed and now stands approximately 40 feet tall. An impressive tree for sure!

You can watch a time lapse video of its delivery into Lake Superior Plaza by clicking HERE.

Once placed, crews had 15 days to get it ready for the annual lighting prior to the Christmas City of the North Parade, which took place on November 18th. Approximately 6,000 LED lights were placed onto the tree, which was lit in stunning fashion just in time for the parade AND during the region’s first true winter snowfall (which seems very appropriate!). If you missed the event, you can see video of the lighting by clicking HERE.

Remember though, this tree, like any other fresh cuts, won’t be around forever. Be sure to check it out before the holiday season rushes by.

Duluth Experience Border

If you’re interested in learning more about Duluth history, riding a fat tire bike on the snow, or sipping locally crafted beer during a behind-the-scenes brewery tour… join us for a tour this holiday season and see Duluth in a brand new light. Click here for more details on this week’s tours.

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