Since moving to Colorado over the summer, I have seen several types of new-to-me evergreen trees. As we approach the holidays, I like to focus on the pine/fir/spruce trees we see, because they (obviously) stay green all winter and are fun to study.
A Little History
Lots of people decorate their homes with Christmas trees during the holiday season. I recently read the legend of St. Boniface for the first time, which contains the story of the very first Christmas tree. I’m looking forward to reading this lovely book, Kristoph and the First Christmas Tree, with my children during the Advent season. St. Boniface, a German Christian monk, lived from 680–754 A.D. The tradition came from Germany, and the first Christmas tree in the United States is documented in the Moravian town of Bethlehem in Pennsylvania, in 1747. It was a tree made of wooden platforms, though, a bit like the one you see in the picture below. My family and I were part of a Moravian church in North Carolina, and I was able to get our lovely German tree at their Candle Tea.
Christmas trees didn’t gain the tremendous popularity we see today, however, until 1848 when Queen Victoria encouraged her husband, Prince Albert, to decorate a tree as he had done during his childhood. Thanks to the general population’s desire to imitate royalty, the custom spread rapidly in England and in the United States. The first Christmas tree in the White House was either in the 1850’s, during Franklin Pierce’s administration, or in the late 1880’s, during Benjamin Harrison’s administration. There’s a little controversy over that (isn’t there always?).
In this country alone, between 25 and 30 million real Christmas trees are sold each year. Isn’t that amazing? Did you know that most Christmas trees are NOT pine, but fir or spruce? Here is a list of common species of evergreens used for Christmas trees. When I was growing up, we had spruce trees, which have short, sharp needles. In fact, I don’t have a real tree in my home, because I remember all too well trying to hang ornaments and getting pricked fingers, not to mention the needles in the carpet we stepped on for months afterward! I do love the smell of a fresh Christmas tree, though.
Another great thing about the holiday season is all the great things people share to do – science activities, crafts, recipes, etc. Here are some fun Christmas-tree related things I’ve found to put a bit of holiday spirit into your homeschool.
- Conifer Nature Study – Over at my blog, Acorn Hill Academy, I’ve put together a study of the different kinds of conifer trees. I have a copywork freebie for you – please come on over!
- Tree Lapbook – free from Homeschool Share, this lapbook includes information on both pine trees and oak trees. Start with pine trees now, and watch for oak trees to come to life in the spring. Includes a nice book list with books you should be able to find at your local library.
- Pine Cone Experiment – As I mentioned last month, we have a plethora of pine cones at our house! We can’t see to stop collecting them. Try this nifty experiment and record your results.
- Pine Cone Weather Station – I hadn’t heard of this one before! Learn how to predict the weather with pine cones!
- Pine Cone Bird Feeders – I have to share one more plug for feeding the birds. This is the time of year when birds flock to feeders, because food is more difficult for them to find in the wild. You’ll get the best variety now, and in the spring before the seeds really start coming on.
- Conifer Recipes and Pine Recipes – I’m sharing under science, because in our house, they would DEFINITELY qualify as an experiment!
- Collaborative Pine Tree Art Project – This is a preschool art post, but I think older kids would have fun with this, too. Use your pine cones and boughs to make a lovely piece of artwork.
- Paper Plate Laced Christmas Tree Craft – Another fun idea for little folks.
- Christmas Tree Art Project – I saw this shared on Facebook, and thought it was perfect for my son! He *loves* sticks. Loves them. This will be a great way for him to make something out of all those sticks he keeps bringing home! (The site is in German, but Google translated it for me.)
Over at Acorn Hill Academy, in addition to my conifer nature study post, I have a lovely copywork freebie for you if you’d like to come over and check it out. I’d also like to invite you to visit my friend Jennifer’s fabulous site, Advent Idea Box, for lots of great information and ideas for the holiday season. I wish you and your family a very blessed Christmas!