Saturday, December 25, 2021

Professor Minnigerode and Christmas Trees

"Tannenbaum" gained acceptance in England and the United States very slowly. By the nineteenth century a few of the "German toys" to use Charles Dickens's phrase appeared in London. But these foreign oddities were still not yet accepted.

In 1841 the German Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, decorated a large Christmas tree at Windsor Castle, reminiscent of his childhood celebrations in Germany. When a print of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's family around a decorated tree at Windsor Castle appeared in the Illustrated London News in 1848, the custom truly caught on.

At about the same time as Prince Albert’s tree, Professor Charles Minnigerode, a German professor at the College of William and Mary, trimmed a small evergreen to delight the children at the St. George Tucker House. He introduced a German Yuletide tradition by setting up a Christmas tree in the parlor of a friend’s home on December 24,1842. The tree was decorated with nuts, paper, and strings of popcorn.

Dr Charles Minnigerode’s evergreen was the first Christmas tree in Williamsburg and the first documented in Virginia. You can visit his grave in Hollywood Cemetery here in Richmond, VA.

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