The idea of decorated Christmas trees began as a German folk custom, and scattered references to decorated Christmas trees have been found as early as 1603. The Christmas tree arrived in England with King George I, a native of Germany. At age 13, his great-great-great-granddaughter Victoria recorded in her diary that she had seen two table-top Christmas trees in her uncle’s drawing room. It was not until 1848, when an etching appeared in The London Illustrated News showing Queen Victoria’s family gathered around their Christmas tree, that the custom came into fashion. Two years later the etching was reproduced in America in Godey’s Lady’s Book (pictured above).
On December 20, 1855, The Columbus Enquirer advertised Christmas trees for sale. It is not clear whether Christmas trees were brought to the Southern plantations from the forest before they were being marketed, or whether this commercial sale of trees introduced them to Southern society.
According to local tradition, the first Christmas tree in Marietta was in the home of the Agricola family, who lived on Church Street diagonally across the street from the William Root family. The Agricolas were from Germany and came to Marietta around 1850. They operated a bakery beside their home for over 50 years.
The American Christmas, written by James Barnett in 1954, reports that early trees were decorated with animal cookies, apples, strings of popcorn, brightly colored paper chains, and a gold star. At the Root House, we use primary source documents (poems, books, and etchings) as resources for decorating our table-top tree. Our tree is a native red cedar adorned with simple handmade ornaments of gilded walnuts, wallpaper cut-outs, gingerbread men, tiny baskets filled with treats, miniature candleholders, and gold stars.
By Terri Cole