Vermont’s Christmas Tree

Each year the Governor of Vermont hosts the lighting of the Christmas tree, which sits on the cascading granite steps of the Vermont State House. Everyone is invited to hear Christmas carols by schoolchildren, listen to a few words by the Governor and then enjoy the decorated interior of the State House with cookies and cider.

Montpelier was graced with a balmy 45 degree afternoon on December 5, 2013 and many Vermonters joined Governor Peter Shumlin. The carolers were children from Westminster, VT.

The Vermont State House prior to the start of the tree lighting ceremony.

The Vermont State House prior to the start of the tree lighting ceremony.

And the tree is lit!

And the tree is lit! This year’s tree is 40′ tall from Waitsfield, VT.

The tree inside the State House was decorated by volunteers.

The tree inside the State House was decorated by volunteers.

The chandelier acted as a tree star.

The chandelier acted as a tree star.

A beautiful tree!

A beautiful tree!

Handmade ornaments include historic photographs of the State House.

Handmade ornaments include historic photographs of the State House.

A few more historic photographs. Clarification: reproductions, not actual historic photos.

A few more historic photographs. Clarification: reproductions, not actual historic photos.

The State House demonstrates beautiful Greek Revival architecture. The ceiling is spectacular. Here everyone is enjoying cookies and cider in the main foyer.

The State House demonstrates beautiful Greek Revival architecture. The ceiling is spectacular. Here everyone is enjoying cookies and cider in the main foyer. Abraham Lincoln observes.

Merry Christmas Vermont!

Merry Christmas Vermont!

Thank you to Governor Shumlin for hosting the Christmas Tree Lighting. And to the staff (fellow preservationists) who decorated (David, Tracy, Thad and volunteers) – the State House looks even more beautiful this time of year. What a lovely way to begin the holiday season. Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas, however and wherever you celebrate! I hope your tree is trimmed, your hearts are full and you are all happy and healthy and with people you love.

Did you trim your tree? Here are a few classic ornaments that always find their way to the O’Shea family tree. These were my mother’s ornaments from her childhood. My sisters and I always think the elf is a devil!

20121225-000011.jpg

20121225-000019.jpg

20121225-000024.jpg

And we have some of my grandmother’s ornaments, too. Sadly a bunch of them broke when our tree fell over – years ago. Our trees are so large, it sometimes happens! But we have a few survivors and the original box.

20121225-000336.jpg

20121225-000353.jpg

Merry Christmas one and all!

Baling the Christmas Tree

Do you have a Christmas tree in your house? Do you prefer real or artificial, fresh-cut or chosen from a lot? Some of my favorite holiday childhood memories includes hunting for a Christmas tree on a tree farm with my parents and sisters. We couldn’t always find a tree to cut — for a while it was much too expensive so we had to resort to those already cut (I suppose the tree farms ran out of old enough trees). Thankfully the trees are tall enough once again so my parents can still cut down a fresh tree. And, to my delight, up here in Vermont we have many tree farms.

One part of the tree farms that I always liked – aside from the wagon rides on some farms – was watching the trees get baled by those crazy looking machines. Much to my delight, the tree farm near us had a seemingly older tree baler in operation. Rather than white plastic rope or some white plastic netting, this baler wrapped the tree in red twine. How festive! (In full disclosure, I know nothing of tree baler history. Searching Google Patents reveals some Christmas tree balers in the 1950s and 1960s. My guesses are only guesses – not facts. Feel free to jump in.)

Christmas tree baler in operation. The metal plate reads "Howey."

A search for Howey tree baler finds that this company has been making tree balers since 1967.

Red twine! Metal hooks attach to the bottom tree limbs.

The end of the machine. The pulley system is on the other side - it seems to operate in a circular or oblong shape.

All baled up and ready to go, with help from the tree farm employee.

So, any tree baler historians out there? How about you industrial archaeologists? Fill me in! I’d bet this one is a few decades old. The farm had a newer one (shinier, white plastic rope) in operation as well, but I much prefer this one. If we go back next year to the same farm, I’ll ask a few questions.

Enjoy your Christmas tree cutting and decorating!

O Christmas Tree

Choosing and chopping down a Christmas tree with my family was always one of the best days of the year. Even on Long Island we had Christmas tree farms, so all six of us would pile into the minivan and drive out east to the beautiful, seemingly rural tree farms. Those days remain among my favorite memories. We’d be bundled in jackets, mittens, and boots, just hoping for snowflakes. We ran around the trees and walked as far back as we could on the farm, figuring that was where they kept the best trees. After searching and all choosing different trees, we would finally narrow it down to two and Mom would make the final decision. Knowing how much her young daughters liked tall tress, we always ended up with a tree larger than we could handle. Luckily, our 1957 ranch house was designed with 12′ cathedral ceiling in the living room (technically called the “great room”). A few years Dad actually had to cut about 2′ – 3′ from the bottom of the tree in order to make it fit! One year the tree almost fell off the roof on our way home; we four girls watched it like a hawk after that.

Eventually cutting your own tree became much too expensive, and we resorted to choosing a tree from a lot, though we’d still head out east for it – until we got to be older and we weren’t all home from college in time to participate in the tree picking.  While we can’t all be there for tree picking, we make sure to decorate the tree all together – it’s a bit event with music, cookies, eggnog, too many ornaments, and traditions – even if we have to wait until Christmas Eve to decorate. We’ve had ugly trees, fat trees, tall trees, trees that fell down in the house, and many more. I imagine it will always be a big deal to us.

My dad is a fan of breaking shoes and bustin’ chops, as he would say, so every year he now talks about that nice 8′ artificial tree that he and Mom are going to put in the living room – forget the real trees!  I think he’s kidding, but still, I threaten to not come home if there is a fake tree. Or I’ll just haul one down from Vermont. We do have fake miniature trees in the house, but there is nothing quite like the Christmas tree smell, without which it wouldn’t feel like Christmas as my house.

Yesterday I received a neighborhood email with 5 reasons to buy a real Christmas tree that touch on the environment and the local economy – how perfect!

5 REASONS TO GET A REAL CHRISTMAS TREE

By Clare Innes, Marketing Coordinator – Chittenden Solid Waste District, Redmond Rd, cinnes@cswd.net

Thinking about getting an artificial Christmas tree this year? Here are 5 great reasons to go for the real deal:

1. The average artificial tree lasts 6 to 9 years but will remain in a landfill for centuries.

2. Think a real tree poses a greater fire hazard? Think again. Artificial trees pose a greater fire hazard than the real deal because they are made with polyvinyl chloride, which often uses lead as a stabilizer, making it toxic to inhale if there is a fire. Lead dust can be harmful to children.

3. Every acre of Christmas trees produces enough daily oxygen for 18 people. There are about 500,000 acres of Christmas trees growing in the U.S. Because of their hardiness, trees are usually planted where few other plants can grow, increasing soil stability and providing a refuge for wildlife.

4. North American Christmas tree farms employ more than 100,000 people; 80% of artificial trees worldwide are manufactured in China.

5. The most sustainable options: Buy your tree from a local grower or purchase a potted tree and plant it in your yard after the holidays.

Enjoy the beginning of the holiday season and have fun finding the perfect tree.