The Transylvania Times -

Picturing The Past: Growing, Decorating Christmas Trees Provided Cash, Fun


December 4, 2017

Courtesy Photo

This undated photo shows children at a Baptist church Christmas program. Contact the Local History Room staff at the library if you can identify any of the children.

The modern Christmas tree, which found its way to the United States with German immigrants in the early 1800s, dates from 16th century Germany.

By 1900, one in five American families decorated trees during Christmas. An article on the front page of the Dec. 1, 1905 Sylvan Valley News advises setting the tree in place the day before it is to be used. Strings of popcorn and popcorn balls should also be prepared a day ahead as well. On the day of the Christmas party, everyone joined in to put on decorations, including tiny twinkling bells, golden stars, shiny tinsel and gleaming candles.

Beginning in 1906 Joseph and Elizabeth Silversteen held an annual Open House at their Rosman house for the community. A description on the 1908 event states, "The tree was beautifully trimmed and the yard under the tree was larger than ever before, and contained tiny toy fowls and animals which greatly pleased the children. The little green and red picket fence surrounding it, gave a touch of completeness to the whole. All the children and old people received oranges and Christmas stockings filled with candy and Mr. Aiken very kindly entertained the callers with his excellent phonograph."

The first mention of a community Christmas tree in Brevard was for the evening of Dec. 24, 1907 at the courthouse.

Many of the local churches and schools also had a Christmas tree and entertainment for children and the communities they served. The presentations typically included readings, songs, plays and a visit from Santa Claus, who brought children a small treat bag as well.

C.M. Siniard was one of the first to make a profit from the growing popularity of Christmas trees. In 1912 he advertised, "Holly Christmas trees and trimmings delivered to any part of town. Rates reasonable."

Courtesy Photo

Brevard High School Christmas Pageant, 1955.

The Christmas tree industry grew quickly until nearly every family had one by 1930. By the mid-1900s Christmas trees had become a cash crop in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. Visit the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history and see additional photographs. For more information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at or 828-884-1820.


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