December 17, 2015

A Christmas Tree

Covered with cookies and candies, studded with nuts gilded with glittering candles, and trimmed with trinkets of all sorts, the nineteenth-century Christmas tree dazzled children and adults alike.

In his short story “A Christmas Tree” (1850), English author Charles Dickens (1812-1870) captured all allure of the bountifully decorated tree of his era in the following lines:

I have been looking, this evening at a merry company of children assembled round that pretty German toy, a Christmas tree. The tree was planted in the middle of the great round table, and towered above their heads . It was brilliantly lighted by a multitude of little tapers; and everywhere sparkled and glittered with bright objects. There were rosy-cheeked dolls, hiding behind green leaves; and there were real watches (with moving hands, at lease, and an endless capacity of being wound up) dangling from innumerable twigs; there were French polished tables, chairs, bedsteads, wardrobes, eight-day clocks, and various other articles of domestic furniture (wonderfully made, in tin, at Wolverhampton), perched among the boughs, as if in preparation for some fairy house-keeping; there were jolly, broad faced little men, much more agreeable in appearance than many real men-and no wonder, for their head too off, and showed them to be full of sugarplums; there were fiddles and drums; there were tambourines, books, work-boxes, paint-boxes; there were trinkets for the older girls, far brighter than any grown-up gold and jewels; there were baskets of pin cushions in all devices; there were guns, swords and banners; there were witches standing in enchanted rings of pasteboard, to tell fortunes; there were teetotums, humming-tops, needle-cases, penwipers, smelling-bottles, conversation-cards, bouquet-holders; real fruit, made artificially dazzling with gold leaf; imitation apples, pears, walnuts, crammed with surprises; in short, as a pretty child before me, delightedly whispered to another pretty child, her bosom friend, “There was everything, and more.”

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