Oh Christmas Tree

We just put our tree up, and it’s beautiful, but almost too beautiful.  For the first time ever, we got a Scotch Pine tree rather than the usual fir, and it is so full and fluffy and perfectly shaped that it looks fake.  Everywhere there are needles that testify to its reality, but at a glance, it looks fake.  Here are a few pictures:  for some reason, my cat Moneypenny had to be in every shot.

Every year, when I am decorating my tree, I have two thoughts:  Prince Albert and Halifax.  Queen Victoria’s beloved consort-husband and the Nova Scotia port city are connected in my mind through Christmas trees.  I think of Prince Albert because he is generally credited with introducing the German/central European custom of decorating evergreen trees at Christmas time to Britain, and consequently America.  Given her Hanover roots, Victoria was probably well aware of this custom before she met and married Albert, but their Christmas trees were revealed to the public in an unprecedented manner, and so the Prince probably does deserve some credit.  A particularly influential print of the royal Christmas tree was published in the Illustrated London News in 1848, and the American periodical Godey’s Lady Book two years later. And about a decade after that, Brtish Christmas cards (also a novelty) prominently featured the Christmas tree.

Why do I think of Halifax when I’m trimming my tree?  Ironically, because of a really tragic event:  the harbor explosion of December 6, 1917.  On that day, in the crowded wartime harbor, a French cargo ship loaded with munitions collided with a Norwegian ship, causing a fire, explosion, and tsunami that leveled over 2 acres of the port and killed 2000 people.  In the ensuing rescue effort, a well-supplied Massachusetts delegation was among the first to arrive in Halifax and the last to leave.  The next year, the still-struggling city of Halifax thanked the people of Boston by sending them a 46 foot fir Christmas tree, a tradition that was revived in the 1970s and continues today.

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