O Christmas Tree: Its History and Holiday Traditions
An endearing holiday symbol with ancient roots.
Even before there was a Christmas, people decorated their homes with evergreens in celebration of the winter solstice. Around 1300 BCE, Egyptians used palm branches to celebrate longer days and the hope of a good crop. In the eighth century the fir tree became a Christian symbol for the Holy Trinity, but it wasn’t until the eleventh century that people began to decorate trees in Paradise plays—the story of Adam and Eve. In O Christmas Tree, readers learn how evergreens became a common holiday tradition, what kinds of decorations have been used over the years, how many different kinds of trees there are, and more.
But a Christmas tree isn’t just a symbol—it’s also a science. Readers learn how trees are grown and harvested and the many challenges that a tree farmer faces, from weather and disease to pests that damage entire crops. A tree identification guide is included. There’s even a guide for those who love artificial Christmas trees. Anyone want a pink plastic tree?
Joanne Friar’s beautiful illustrations, filled with all the colors of the season, are reminiscent of Christmas past, when the simple pleasure of bringing home the tree meant magic and mystery.
Look Inside the Book:
Author & Illustrator Bios:Jacqueline Farmer, author
Jacqueline Farmer is the author of several children’s books, including Apples and Pumpkins. She lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Read more about Jacqueline Farmer.
Joanne Friar, illustrator
Joanne Friar’s illustrations have appeared in many magazines and books for children, including The Bald Eagle’s View of American History. Joanne lives in Somerset, Massachusetts.
Read more about Joanne.
This slender but informative book traces the roots and history of the Christmas tree through pagan and Christian practices over thousands of years, from the palm fronds decorating ancient Egyptians' homes for winter solstice to twenty-first-century, prelit artificial trees. Then the focus shifts to Christmas tree agriculture in North America: the varieties of trees grown, the stages of growing them, and the challenges of tree farming. The book concludes with "Fun Facts" and a short reading list. The clearly written text shows respect for its audience by introducing some stories, such as Martin Luther creating the first decorated Christmas tree, as legends rather than history. On every page, colorful gouache paintings brighten the presentation and provide visual information that complements the text. Attention to details in writing, illustration, and design makes this a pleasing book and a fine read-aloud choice for children who want to know why there's a tree in their house each December. —Carolyn Phelan
This carefully researched and attractively illustrated historical view of a familiar Christmas tradition conveys a large amount of information within the oversized picture-book format. The historical background explains the evolution of the custom from evergreen branches in Egypt and Rome to early Christmas trees in Germany. The rise in popularity of the trees in the United States includes Christmas trees at the White House and the changing styles of trees. Growing methods, the most popular kinds of trees and the difficulties faced by tree farmers are also described. The final pages include Christmas-tree trivia and a short resource list. Friar’s gouache paintings provide additional details, succeeding in both the appealing historical scenes and in the more scientifically oriented spreads about tree farming. Bids fair to be a real workhorse for library holiday collections.
School Library Journal
Beginning with the ancient Egyptians and Romans, who decorated with palm and evergreen branches at the winter solstice, readers learn about the customs and traditions through the centuries that led to the modern Christmas tree and decorations, including popcorn, blown-glass ornaments, and electric lights, as well as trees made of feathers, plastic, and aluminum. The last section is devoted to the planting, care, and harvesting of trees. Friar's gouache illustrations have plenty of detail, but are a little awkward in scale. In all, an interesting look at a very specific part of the Christmas celebration. –Mara Alpert, Los Angeles Public Library
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Page count: 32
8 1/2 x 11