Friday, December 5, 2008

Christmas Greenery

By: Gwen Miner, Domestic Arts Supervisor From ancient times, plants and trees that remained green all year had special meaning for people in winter. Since then people in many cultures have hung evergreen boughs over their windows and doors.
At The Farmers' Museum we have based our use of greenery for Christmas decoration in Central New York on accounts written in 19th century journals and diaries. One of the earliest accounts of the use of greenery that I have found is from the diary of Sarah Amelia Fairman of Butternuts, NY –1819-1821. On December 25, Sarah wrote, “Christmas has commenced in the eve we assembled to the courts of the Lord-the edifice was dressed with sprigs of green laurel and the running vine…” Sarah’s diary can be found in the Special Collections of the New York State Historical Association /The Farmers’ Museum Research Library.
Susan Fenimore Cooper in her book “Rural Hours”, first published in 1850, wrote on December, Tuesday, 19th—
"We passed a cart standing in the woods, well loaded with Christmas Greens, for our parish church. Pine and hemlock are the branches commonly used among us for the purpose; the hemlock, with its flexible twigs, and the grayish reverse of the foliage, produces a very pretty effect...Neither the holly, the cedar, the arbor vitae, the cypress, or the laurel, grows in our immediate neighborhood, so that we are limited to the pine and hemlock. These two trees, however, when their branches are interwoven are very well adapted for Christmas wreaths."

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