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Dec 14

Advent–The Christmas Trees

For centuries, at Christmas time, one of the main objects in homes has been the Christmas tree. As I look through family photos I see that our family is no exception to this tradition. Christmas trees are bright and pretty and photos often focused on them. Here are some pictures of family trees in various styles and sizes.

Carl Miller family Christmas tree (1951)

Carl Miller family Christmas tree (1951)

According to Wikipedia the custom of the Christmas tree originated in Germany. Christmas trees were originally decorated with foods such as apples, nuts or dates and were lighted with candles.

Grandma Miller and Uncle Vernie by the same Christmas tree. (1951)

Grandma Miller and Uncle Vernie by the same Christmas tree. (1951)

This past summer I found the photo shown below in a box stowed away in the Miller barn. The items hanging from the tree were dish cloths that look like they were made into slippers, probably made by my aunts. Each pair was labeled for their recipient:  Kate, Mom, Florence, Martha and Em.

Miller dish cloth gifts. (c1951)

Miller dish cloth gifts. (c1951)

When I was a young child we had a live Christmas tree. It was exciting to get the box of beautiful old-fashioned glass ornaments down from the attic and decorate the tree. I don’t know what happened to all those old ornaments. They probably broke over the years but I would love to have a few of them for keepsakes. We also used lots of tinsel and the large colored Christmas lights to adorn the tree. The tinsel was messy but the cats loved it.

A few years later artificial trees became popular and we got one to replace the annual live tree. The first artificial tree we had was green and resembled a real tree. The next artificial tree we purchased was a shiny silver aluminum tree. Those were quite popular in the late 50s and I loved watching the multi-colored light wheel rotate and change the color of the tree. Each of those aluminum trees came with the light wheel because we were cautioned not to string electrical lights on the metal tree.

The photo below was taken at a Farm Bureau Council meeting at my parents’ home. Some of you may recognize Donna and Vernon Caffee, Fred Miller and Bob Humbert holding his daughter Rita Kay. Note the aluminum tree in the corner.

Aluminum tree. (c1959)

Aluminum tree. (c1959)

We now use a mid-size artificial tree in the basement. Upstairs I have become very lazy with my trees. I group four skinny, folk-art-style trees of various sizes together and I decorate each differently. Here is the lazy part: I leave the lights on the trees, take them to the basement and cover each with a bag for storage. Each of these trees is one piece so there is nothing to take apart. The next Christmas all I have to do is take the trees upstairs, plug them in and hang a few decorations on them. How simple! And I have my own little pine forest.

Karen's trees

Grouping of my 4 trees.

Last year we visited the Fort Wayne Botanical Conservatory on Black Friday. It was decorated beautifully for Christmas and it was peaceful walking through the plants and flowers. There was no shopping and fighting the crowds for us. They had a poinsettia tree there.

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We have a beautiful 12 foot tree at Zion, Chatt, decorated by a group of ladies at the church.

Zion, Chatt's, 12 foot tree.

Zion, Chatt’s, 12 foot tree.

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,
Wie treu sind deine Blatter!

[O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your branches green delight us!]

7 comments

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  1. Waldo

    That is a rather liberal translation of O Tannenbaum is it not? How true are your leaves comes out “Your green branches delight us”??

    1. Karen

      I found that translation on-line and that was the way they translated it. It was beyond my capabilities.

  2. Waldo

    By the way, nice software upgrade. I like it.

    1. Karen

      Thanks! There are a couple things we are still trying to correct after the upgrade. Other changes were made by my webmaster at my request. It is handy that my webmaster is also my son!

  3. Waldo

    As I recall, most of the family spoke only German and had heavy accents when using English. Where are all those German speakers? In fact, most of your Zion records were in German (or at least part), where is the translator? Why are people so reluctant to comment? From what I have heard, most of the family checks your blog regularly, especially the older folks. Is there still a stigma with being recognized as German?

    1. Karen

      Hi Waldo! I don’t think there is any stigma with our German heritage. Nearly all of my relatives today cannot read or speak German anymore. Those that could read and speak it are gone. Yes, the church records were written in the old German script until about 1910. I learned to read the old script and enough German to translate the basics from the records. I got pretty good at recognizing names and dates but I could not translate a whole letter. It was fairly easy to figure out that a child was baptized when the entry was in the Baptism section of the church records. I learned a few basic church terms in German and was able to translate the records. It was also helpful that I was familiar with the surnames in the records of both Zion churches.

  4. Joe

    Nice memories! I had forgotten the silver trees. They were so “cutting edge ” at the time.

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