Christmas in the Dictionary
(completed articles only)
Christmas Feature

Harriet Martineau and the Follen Family Christmas Tree

Harriet Martineau
During the holiday season of 1835 Harriet Martineau visited the household of Charles and Eliza Follen. She recorded a celebration which has been often hailed as the introduction of the Christmas tree into America. Follen, a Unitarian minister, was an immigrant from Germany, where Christmas trees had long been in use. Here is Martineau's record of the event, from Retrospect of Western Travel, vol. 2 (1838), pp. 178-179 (the Follen's are not mentioned by name; the only named character is their young son, Charley):

I was present at the introduction into the new country of the spectacle of the German Christmas-tree. My little friend Charley and three companions had been long preparing for this pretty show. The cook had broken her eggs carefully in the middle for some weeks past, that Charley might have the shells for cups; and these cups were gilded and coloured very prettily. I rather think it was, generally speaking, a secret out of the house; but I knew what to expect. It was a Newyear’s tree, however; for I could not go on Christmas-eve, and it was kindly settled that New-year’s-eve would do as well. More

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