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O Christmas Tree: Its History and Holiday Traditions    by Jacqueline Farmer & Joanne Friar order for
O Christmas Tree
by Jacqueline Farmer
Order:  USA  Can
Charlesbridge, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

If you'd like an inexpensive book for your children that explains how the holiday tradition of decorating a Christmas tree evolved, try O Christmas Tree: Its History and Holiday Traditions by Jacqueline Farmer.

Beginning with the ancient Egyptians and Greeks and their use of evergreen branches to decorate their homes as part of the celebration of the winter solstice, the author then discusses how, in 725 or thereabouts, Boniface supposedly tried to convince Germanic tribes to bring fir trees into their dwellings and surround them with gifts for their families.

According to the British missionary, the fir was the holy tree of the Christ Child. Its triangular shape symbolized the Holy Trinity and its branches pointed heavenward.

Moving on to time when plays based on the Bible were popular (11th to 16th century), the author next looks at a particular play that was performed on December 24th and told the story of Adam and Eve. The centerpiece of the production was a fir tree decorated with red apples; thus, the two prominent colors of the holiday season were established.

Tree decoration became more common and the citizens of Riga, Latvia, lay claim to the first officially decorated tree when, in 1510, they covered an evergreen with flowers to celebrate Christmas and the start of a new year. Also, legend has it that Martin Luther added candles to a fir's branches to approximate twinkling stars.

By the 1600s, though, tree decorating was quite common. Fruits, nuts, and tinsel fashioned from silver shavings created a festive air which was enhanced by glass blown ornaments in the 1800s.

In addition to learning about the origin of the Christmas tree, young readers will also discover how Christmas trees are grown, what the major varieties are, and how electric lights have evolved over the years to the LED lights of today.

The color illustrations of Joanne Friar add to the appeal of this paperback's highly informative text. This an ideal way to learn about some of the cherished traditions that accompany the holiday season and all members of the family, not just the children, will enjoy reading this book and sharing its contents with others.

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