MEDINA – The origin of the modern Christmas tree often is associated with the religious reformer Martin Luther in 16th-century Germany, but an Orleans County woman has taken the tradition to a whole new level with 19 trees in her rural home along Route 31-A and three more lighted trees on her patio.
“The lighted tree is a very special way to honor the true light of the world – Jesus Christ, the Christ of Christmas,” Lorraine Root said last week as she put the finishing touches on the last of the 22 Christmas trees in and around her home at 12595 W. Lee Road. Her post office address is Albion, but she lives about four miles east of Medina, “out in the country.”
“During the darkest days of winter, our spirits are lifted up when we see a lighted Christmas tree or display,” Root said. “Carrying on this tradition of the lighted tree into my home, I have for many years added trees to all the living rooms of my house until I now have 19 – 2-foot-tall to 7-foot trees – indoors and three lighted trees on the patio.
“These trees light the five Nativity scenes around the trees. ”
Root especially pointed out the tradition of St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church, at 1357 West Ave. in Medina, which has a lighted tree decorated with white Chrismons, monograms representing Christ that combine words, letters and symbols including crosses, doves, three circles, a triangle, as well as a clover and stars.
“This tree is set up to be enjoyed for the month of December, the advent season. Chrismons are a great visual reminder of the whole Christmas season, and the lighted tree is a symbol of light in the dark days of December.”
Most religious scholars agree that the modern Christmas tree originated in Renaissance and early modern Germany, but there is speculation that its origin may have been earlier.
“Martin Luther, the religious reformer of Germany, is credited with starting the tradition of the Christmas tree to celebrate the birth of Jesus,” Root said.
Helen Haidle, in “Christmas Legends to Remember,” and Debbie Trafton O’Neal and David LaRochelle in “Before and After Christmas,” have written that the 16th-century origins of the decorated tree “are sometimes associated with Martin Luther.” A former monk who disagreed with some of the indulgences granted in 1517 by Pope Leo X, Martin Luther ultimately was excommunicated from the Catholic Church, and his followers soon began the Protestant Reformation.
Root said, “The early Christmas trees were lighted by real candles to reflect the numerous stars in the sky.”
Since the early 1900s, many cities, towns and larger stores in the United States – including some in Western New York – have been putting up decorated Christmas trees as both religious and secular reminders of the holiday and the associated shopping season. Among them are the widely recognized tree in Rockefeller Center in New York City and the National Christmas Tree on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C.
Some cities have expanded their displays to encompass entire sections or neighborhoods, like the former Festival of Lights in downtown Niagara Falls or the displays in Niagara Falls’ Hyde Park, Delaware Park in Buffalo, and the business district along Center Street in Lewiston.
Few individuals, however, can match the 22 trees on display in and around Root’s house in Orleans County.
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