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The First Christmas Tree in America

The First Christmas Tree in America

The Historical Marker

The First Christmas Tree in America publicly lighted and displayed in a church Christmas service stood where the Cleveland Public Auditorium now stands, a designated Cleveland Landmark.

On that site once stood the original Zion Lutheran Church where on Christmas Eve, 1851, its pastor, Henry Schwan (1819-1905) introduced that first historic Christmas tree, a tradition he brought from Germany and which spread from that site throughout America.

The present location of Zion Lutheran Church
is 2062 East 30th Street
The Cleveland Landmark Commission
This historic marker given to the City of Cleveland
The Rotary Club of Cleveland

Location of Marker

41° 30.175′ N, 81° 41.678′ W. Marker is in Cleveland, Ohio, in Cuyahoga County. Marker is on West Mall Drive south of Lakeside Avenue East, on the left when traveling south. Marker is located along the sidewalk, overlooking the Cleveland Mall.

Christmas Trees in America

Most 19th-century Americans found Christmas trees an oddity. The first record of one being on display was in the 1830s by the German settlers of Pennsylvania, although trees had been a tradition in many German homes much earlier. The Pennsylvania German settlements had community trees as early as 1747, but, as late as the 1840s Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols and not accepted by most Americans.

It is not surprising that, like many other festive Christmas customs, the tree was adopted so late in America. To the New England Puritans, Christmas was sacred. The pilgrims' second governor, William Bradford, wrote that he tried hard to stamp out “pagan mockery” of the observance, penalizing any frivolity. The influential Oliver Cromwell preached against “the heathen traditions” of Christmas carols, decorated trees, and any joyful expression that desecrated “that sacred event.” In 1659, the General Court of Massachusetts enacted a law making any observance of December 25 (other than a church service) a penal offense; people were fined for hanging decorations. That stern solemnity continued until the 19th century, when the influx of German and Irish immigrants undermined the Puritan legacy.

The First Publicly Lighted Tree in America

Pastor Heinrich (Henry) Christian Schwan made history when he celebrated his first Christmas in Cleveland by placing a candlelit tree in his church’s sanctuary, a custom that was popular in Germany, his native country, and helped spread the tradition across America.

Early on Christmas Eve 1851, the Rev. Schwan, newly installed pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Cleveland, went into the forest near his parsonage and chopped down a small beautifully-shaped evergreen. After taking it into his church and placing it in a prominent spot in the chancel, he and his wife, Emma, spent the afternoon trimming the tree with cookies, colored ribbons, fancy nuts and candles. A silver star that Schwan had brought with him from his boyhood home in Hanover, Germany, topping off the tree, was a reminder of his happy boyhood Christmases.

The custom hadn't caught on yet in America. He wanted to share this same happiness with members of his congregation, most of whom were also German-born and thus likely to have seen a Christmas tree in their past.

Most of the members of his congregation were pleasantly surprised, and wonderful Christmas memories of the Old Country were enkindled by the sight of the beautifully decorated and lighted tree. Others, however, were offended by the idea of having a Tannenbaum in church.





Department of Elfland Security Website Department Website
Department of Elfland Security Website
About the Department of Elfland Security About the Department
Detailed information about the department and our involvement with The Assembly of Legendary Figures.
Elf Workers Union Handbook Elf Workers Union Handbook
Get your own copy of the Elf Workers Union Handbook.
Department of Elfland Security Frequently Asked Questions Department Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently asked question to the Department of Elfland Security from children all over the world and workers at North Pole City.
Golden Candy Cane Awards Golden Candy Cane Awards
Information about the Golden Candy Cane Awards and how to submit a candidate.

The First Christmas Tree in America

The Department's Divisions

Office of Elf Affairs Office of Elf Affairs
The Office of Elf Affairs acts as a liaison between the elf workers union and the office of human resources.
Flight Command Division Flight Command Division
The Division of Flight Command is responsible for coordinating all of the flights to and from Santa’s Village at the North Pole.
Division of History and Research Division of History and Research
The Division of History and Research is responsible for researching and documenting the history of all of the legendary figures and the elf nation.
Forestry Division Forestry Division
The Division of Forestry is responsible for all agriculture at North Pole City.
Gift Wrap and Decoration Division Gift Wrap and Decoration Division
The division of Gift Wrap and Decoration is responsible for all designs and production of the gift wrap used at Santa's Village.
Office of Naughty or Nice List Office of Naughty or Nice List
This department is responsible compiling the naughty and nice database so that it is ready for Santa's second approval.
Post Office Post Office
As you can imagine, Santa's village receives millions of postal letters each day and the Post Office Division is the center of all of these communications.
Division of Research and Development Division of Research and Development
The Division of Research and Development is responsible for all of the technology advances at North Pole City and within Santa's Village.
Mrs. Claus Kitchen Mrs. Claus' Kitchen
This division is responsible for the serving food to all of the elf workings within Santa's Village.
Division of Tailor and Seamstress Division of Tailor and Seamstress
This division is responsible for designing and manufacturing the clothing for all of the elves at North Pole City and Santa\'s Village
Santa's Workshop Santa's Workshop
This division of Santa's Village is responsible for the creation and assembly of all of the gifts that Santa's delivers on Christmas Eve.
Security and Investigation Division Security and Investigation Division
The Security and Investigation Division also known as the Security Detail is responsible for all of the Security Detail is responsible for the guarded security of all of the members of the Assembly of Legendary Figures.
Santa's Reindeer Stables Santa's Reindeer Stables
Santa's Reindeer Stables elves are responsible for the care of Santa's reindeer and sleighs. They keep the team and fleet in top flying condition at all times.
Landing and Preparation Team Landing and Preparation Team
The Department of Elfland Security's Landing and Preparation Team is the group of elves that are deployed ahead of Santa Claus to make sure that all is well before Santa lands to make his deliveries or visit.
WWW / PR Office WWW/PR Office
The office responsible for website updates and public relations.

Child Safety

Child Safety Guide for Parents A Child Saftety Guide For Parents
Child safety is one of the most vital issues to consider during child rearing. This site is full of useful information for child safety.
McGruff Craime Dog McGruff.org
McGruff the Crime Dog and pal, Scruff, bring ideas about kids staying safe through safety puzzles, games, and coloring pages.
iKeepSafe.org iKeepSafe.org
Information about on-line child safety.

Department Resources

WorldOMeter WorldOMeter.info
Provides live statistics of vairous items all over the world.

Pinterest Boards

Elves Caught Elves Caught
A Pinterest Board showing "Scout" Elves Caught from around the world.
Elves at Work Elves at Work
A Pinterest Board of Elves at Work
The Peppermint Post Merch

Pinterest Board

WELF-NPC North Pole City Radio On-Air