Americans have become tree-lovers at Christmas, inviting evergreen denizens of the forest into their homes for the holiday. Within the memory of people now living, Christmas trees have taken attention in many homes that used to be reserved for nativity scenes and stockings hung on the fireplace mantel.
This interest in Christmas trees creates opportunities for family activities of picking out a tree, perhaps going to a forest to get a tree, and decorating the tree. The decorated trees, whether natural or artificial, can be creations of almost breathtaking beauty.
The tradition of having a Christmas tree migrated to America from Germany in the mid-1800s. In Germany children made gifts for their parents and other relatives which were presented on St. Nicholas’ Day, December 6. The elders in turn would close off the parlor and set up a Christmas tree for a celebration on Christmas Eve. The children could not enter the parlor until the appointed evening. Then the doors would be opened to reveal the lighted tree with gifts hung from its branches and arranged around its base.
The German idea of a Christmas tree seems to be a custom surviving from church plays of the Middle Ages. Priests used to put on little dramas of Bible stories, including one about Adam and Eve. The feast day for mankind’s first couple was December 24, and their play was enacted on that date. An evergreen tree, with apples tied to its boughs, had a central role in the story. Viewers of the drama, probably impressed by the beauty of that “paradise tree,” may have started setting up their own versions of it in their homes.
Displays of gorgeous Christmas trees are used to raise funds for charities in Idaho. Saint Alphonsus holds its Festival of Trees at Boise Centre from November 25 to 29. Canyon County has a festival at the Idaho Center in Nampa on November 27 to 29.
Kootenai Health has its festival at the Coeur d’Alene Resort on November 27 to 30. Weiser plans a festival to be held at the Vendome Events Center on State Street, dates to be announced. And a festival will be presented at the Oregon Trail Recreation Center in Burley on November 18 to 20.
To make a home-style version of trees beautiful, buyers can find trees at sales lots, stores and the national forests. Idaho has 94 Christmas tree farms which sell about $1.75 million of trees yearly. The Owyhee County Historical Museum in Murphy will sell trees harvested from the wild at their Christmas Bazaar on December 5 from 9 AM to 5 PM. The Owyhee Mountains are not known for growing titans of the forest, so the museum suggests that buyers may expect to find a “Charlie Brown” tree — plus gifts, crafts, not to mention home-made chili and pie.
Idaho’s National Forests offer Christmas trees for the cutting. A permit is required and it is a good idea to consult with a ranger about where to go to get a tree. Harvesting a little tree can help thin the forest, making room for trees to prosper in their natural home.

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