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Local Church’s Christmas Tradition: The First Tree In America

By Mary Blake, WBZ NewsRadio 1030
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(CBS)

(CBS)

EAST LEXINGTON (CBS) – If you haven’t picked out your Christmas tree yet this year, members of the Follen Church in East Lexington invite you to pay them a visit.

It turns out that their Church is linked historically to the Christmas tree tradition in America.

“We call ourselves the Christmas tree Church,” said Faith Ferguson, historian and archivist with the Follen Church.

“Our founding minister, Charles Follen was born in Germany, and it was a German tradition to decorate Christmas trees, and when he came to the United States, he brought the tradition with him,” said Ferguson.

Ferguson added there is a wonderful story about the Follen’s Christmas tree tradition that was written by Harriet Martineau, a journalist with Godey’s Ladies Book.

Ferguson told WBZ NewsRadio 1030 that Martineau was a house guest of the Follens in 1834, and she was quite taken with a wonderful scene she had witnessed.

“She wrote about going out into the woods and cutting down a tree. The parents decorated it and hung candies on the branches, along with little toys, and they tucked toys all around the tree. The tree was lit with candles that were attached to the tree on painted eggshell halves. The parents then threw open the doors and the kids all ran in. They were very excited about the gifts and the lit tree. You can imagine how much fun it was,” Ferguson explained.

Ferguson said after the story was published in Godey’s, the tradition spread like wildfire.

“You can begin to see more and more references and pictures of Christmas trees, and by the 1870′s, everybody has Christmas trees,” said Ferguson.

Follen Church actually began selling Christmas trees in a lot across the street from the Church in 1974.

Church members say it’s become a fun and time-honored tradition among members.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030′s Mary Blake reports

Laurel Carpenter is one of the lot volunteers and says she loves watching the different methods of selecting a tree.

“It’s kind of fun to watch and see how people pick things out. Someone just marches right up and they don’t spend a lot of time. Other people walk around and around and try to figure out this tree and that tree. So, it’s fun,” said Carpenter.

The Follen Church sells up to 900 trees each season.

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