The Duluth Community Christmas Tree
A Duluth Holiday Tradition
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 30+ years!
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.
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.
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…