Oh Tannenbaum

The Haldimand County Museum and Archives in Cayuga is presenting an exhibit this December titled “Early Settlers Christmas.” This area of Canada was the destination for Loyalists who had fled from the United States after the Revolution. Many were British but there were also Dutch, Germans, Scandinavians, African Americans, and Native Americans who brought with them the customs and traditions of their home countries. Those of German descent, from Pennsylvania and the Mohawk Valley, celebrated with Christmas trees. The first Christmas tree is said to have been lit in the Governor’s Residence at Sorel, Québec, in 1781 by Baroness Frederika von Riedesel, the wife of the commander of the Brunswick troops who had fought with the British in the Revolutionary War and surrendered with them at Saratoga. The general was eventually exchanged and assigned to duty in Upper Canada. There, to celebrate Christmas, the Baroness, known affectionately as Lady Fritz, hosted a party for British and German officers with the traditional roast beef and plum pudding. But it was the fir tree decorated with fruits and berries and lit with candles that elicited oohs and aahs. The Canadian government in 1981 issued a stamp commemorating the Baroness’s Christmas tree.

Information about Frederika von Riedesel and the Christmas tree can be found here.

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