November 4, 2019
The acquisition and decoration of the family Christmas tree ranks among the most iconic American cultural traditions. But getting a tree gussied up for the holidays has a long and storied history. Spruce up your knowledge with these fast facts about fashionable firs.
- Bringing evergreen branches into the home to celebrate the winter solstice is a tradition found in many ancient cultures, including those of the Egyptians, Celts, Romans, and Scandinavians.
- The modern tradition of decorating Christmas trees is often attributed to 16th-century Germans. Martin Luther, the architect of Protestant reform, is credited as the first to adorn boughs with lighted candles and decorations, which he allegedly did as a gift to his wife honoring the glory of God’s creation in the dead of winter.
- Christmas trees in the home became a new-fangled fad in Great Britain around the turn of the 19th century. While many traditionalists initially shook their heads at the idea, by 1846 the practice had become commonplace enough that even Queen Victoria had a family portrait sketched around a Christmas tree.
- In the United States, Pennsylvania Germans had incorporated the tradition as early as the mid-1700s; however, many Christian Americans still considered it blasphemous. That is, until Queen Victoria’s indulgence made the trees socially desirable. By the 1890s, the American Christmas tree as we know it had been firmly planted in the cultural consciousness, giving rise to the intersection of sacred and secular Christmas traditions in the modern era.
In this Pride and Prejudice fanfic sequel, Mary Bennet bonds with Arthur de Bourgh over an interest in the work of radical French biologist and naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829). They share a fascination with his landmark book, Zoological Philosophy (1809), which outlined his theories of the evolution of animal species. Lamarck postulated that animals evolve over time in direct relation to the environment around them, changing behaviors and bodily structures accordingly. Fifty years later, Charles Darwin would publish his On the Origin of Species. Darwin credited Lamarck as an important forerunner, but his work debunked some of Lamarck’s claims; among them, Lamarck’s rejection of a single evolutionary ancestor shared by all animals and his belief in a bodily fluid akin to a divine life force.
The Bennet sisters lived in a transitional period of innovation. Over the course of their lives, they would have experienced sweeping changes to the world, as advancements in technology, science, and scholarship irrevocably altered the way human beings lived and thought about their existence.