Experiencing the Beauty of Christmas at the 2019 Festival of Trees

Saturday, December 14, 2019
One of the most popular Christmas traditions in America is the beloved Christmas tree.  Whether your family makes an annual pilgrimage to tag and cut a fresh tree or chooses a pre-lit artificial variety, the Christmas tree is almost always the centerpiece of the holiday home.  Aside from Santa coming, the Christmas tree is one of the most exciting and visually memorable aspects of Christmas for most children and many adults.  With its twinkling lights, shiny ornaments, and magical presence, is it any wonder people of all ages are wowed by the sight of a decorated tree.

That sense of wonderment is multiplied 70 times when you visit the Schenectady County Historical Society's Festival of Trees because that's how many trees are on display.  Forty two on display at the Historical Society and another 28 at the  YWCA Northeastern NY just down the street in the Schenectady Stockade.  We went to the Festival of Trees for the first time last season and again this past week.  It is quite a sight to behold.
Do you know how the tradition of the Christmas tree began?  According to the History Channel, 'Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce. It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles. Most 19th-century Americans found Christmas trees an oddity. The first record of one being on display was in the 1830s by the German settlers of Pennsylvania, although trees had been a tradition in many German homes much earlier.The early 20th century saw Americans decorating their trees mainly with homemade ornaments, while the German-American sect continued to use apples, nuts, and marzipan cookies. Popcorn joined in after being dyed bright colors and interlaced with berries and nuts. Electricity brought about Christmas lights, making it possible for Christmas trees to glow for days on end. With this, Christmas trees began to appear in town squares across the country and having a Christmas tree in the home became an American tradition.'   
Visitors are encouraged to vote for their favorite tree, but I couldn't possibly pick just one.  One of my many favorites was the Erie Canal tree, decorated with photos of the Erie Canal and wooden barges.


One of the most touching was the tree dedicated to Sophie Zych.  Sophie's daughter, Phyllis, decorated her tree with handmade felt ornaments because Sophie loved Christmas, and everything about it.  One of her many annual traditions was making felt and sequin stockings, wall hangings, and ornaments.  It was also her tradition to visit the Festival of Trees.  As a fellow Christmas-a-holic, I hope when I'm gone, my Christmas passion will be remembered like Sophie's.  I think Sophie is smiling down from heaven at her beautifully decorated tree in her honor.  


 The tree below on the right is covered in what I remember being called, Angel Hair.  Here, referred to as cobwebs,  it is accompanied by a story of the Christ Child and the Spiders.

 I think you can agree, the Historical Society provides the perfect setting for such a distinguished and breathtaking display.
 Below another one of my favorites...Winter in Central Park, covered in old photos.


 Below a Scottish Christmas...........




Just down the street at the YWCA, 28 more beautiful trees are on display.   From the trees decorated by the Blue Star Mothers of America, the Gold Star Mothers of America, Rudolf and trees covered with cards and dice by Rivers Casino....all the trees on display are an exercise in imagination, dedication and even humor.  




Each and every one special and beautiful.  All of this is to benefit the Schenectady County Historical Society and the YWCA Northeastern NY.   I didn't include all the trees here, because I hope you'll go and see them for yourself.  Admission to the Festival of Trees is $8.00, children under 12 are free.  The exhibit is open through December 22 from 10:00-5:00.  The Historical Society is located at 32 Washington Avenue, Schenectady NY.  For more information:
For more fun historical facts about Christmas trees:
I hope this not only inspires you to see the trees for yourself, but to use the spirit of the season to find some ways to give of yourself and spread a little charity, and joy, to those who could use it this holiday.  

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