Monday, December 22, 2008

Why Do We Do That, Again?

Did you ever wonder why candy canes are a Christmas staple? Whose fault is it that we scramble to get Christmas cards sent out to every single soul we know (and probably even a few we don't know)? Who can we thank for the annual battle with strings of hopelessly tangled Christmas lights? And just what were early artificial trees made from, anyway?

Well, wonder no more. Here is a brief to answer each of these ponderings:

Candy canes were bent into the shape we know and love in about 1670 by the Cologne Cathedral's choirmaster as a way to keep the kiddos quiet during the church's looooong Christmas creche pageant. However, that lovely peppermint flavor and iconic red and white striping didn't appear until the early 20th century, after the tradition had made the journey across the pond to the United States. (Ya gotta love that good ol' American ingenuity.)

Commercially printed Christmas cards came into vogue following their initial creation in 1843 by English artist John Calcott Horsley, at the behest of Sir Henry Cole. (So, who do we blame for our annual Holiday Writer's Cramp: Mr. Horsley, or Sir Cole? I say both - I'm an equal opportunity blamer.)

The first safe electric Christmas tree lights were invented by fifteen-year-old Albert Sadacca in 1917. It is said he was inspired to create safer lights after a tragic fire, involving Christmas tree candles, in New York City. (Well, I gotta say: though my yearly wrestling match with Christmas lights provides endless entertainment for my family - and provokes more than a few choice words from me, I am very thankful for this young man's inspired creation.)

Artificial Christmas trees first appeared near the end of the 1800's, in Germany: metal wire trees wrapped with - of all things - feathers. But then came 1930, and the Addis Brush Company's "artificial-brush tree." It was manufactured using the same machinery in their plant that made...toilet brushes! (I kid you not. I so want to find one of these, ahem, toilet brush trees...)