“O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure dost thou bring me!
For ev’ry year the Christmas tree,
Brings to us all both joy and glee.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure dost thou bring me!”
This year’s Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is a 74-foot high, The 40-foot-wide, 18,000-pound Norway spruce from Mahopac, N.Y., in Putnam County, donated by a New York City firefighter.
Peter Acton works at Engine 79 in the Bronx and was a first responder on Sept. 11th. He first learned the soaring centerpiece of their yard was in the running when his wife received a knock on their door this Sept. 11th from a Rockefeller tree scout. At the time, Peter was at a ceremony honoring those who died in the Sept. 11 attacks.
The lighting of the tree’s 18,000 lights will take place this evening, which will be broadcast by WNBC-TV New York (Channel 4 for you New Yorkers).
Although the official Christmas tree tradition at Rockefeller Center began in 1933 (the year the 30 Rockefeller Plaza opened),the unofficial tradition began during the Depression-era construction of Rockefeller Center, when workers decorated a small 20 foot balsam fir tree with “strings of cranberries, garlands of paper, and even a few tin cans on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1931. Some accounts have the tree decorated with the tin foil ends of blasting caps. There was no Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in 1932. The tallest Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center was a 100 foot spruce erected in 1999.
NBC promises “holiday music” and “the latest hits” from music’s hottest stars. I’ve tuned in to this broadcast to find the performers singing bland egotistical songs about sex and romance, and not much about Christmas trees. If they forget the holiday music, I have enough versions of “O Christmas Tree/O Tannenabaum” to take up the entire half hour.
According to Wikipedia, A Tannenbaum is a fir tree (German die Tanne) or Christmas tree (der Weihnachtsbaum). Its evergreen qualities have long inspired musicians to write several “Tannenbaum” songs in German.
The best-known version was written in 1824 by Leipzig organist, teacher and composer Ernst Anschütz. The melody is an old folk tune. The first known “Tannenbaum” song dates back to 1550. A similar 1615 song by Melchior Franck (1573–1639) begins:
Ach Tannenbaum, ach Tannenbaum, du bist ein edler Zweig! Du grünest uns den Winter, die liebe Sommerzeit
The state of Maryland went so far as to take the tune and turn into their state song. There are so many versions of the lyrics, but the tune is so familiar that it wouldn’t matter if they sang it in Mandarin Chinese.
One interesting instrumental version I have of the song is on an album called “Hammered Dulcimer Christmas: A Postcard Christmas.” This rendition is quite lovely and gentle. Tea Partiers ought to enjoy its old-fashioned quality and so should country music fans.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Ray Conniff singers have recorded the song, as well as other groups, particularly The Boys Choir of Vienna. Their album is called “Christmas Voices & Bells.” The producers ought to have added alpine horns on the labels, for they’re part of the show. It seems only fitting that a boy’s choir from the Austrian Alps should be singing an old Christmas Carol about the Christmas tree.
If you want a more modern, cooler Tannenbaum, however, you can try the CD of A Charlie Brown Christmas, with the Vince Guaraldi Trio performing the song. It’s instrumental only, but very progressive jazz, as any fan of the Charlie Brown Christmas Special can attest (which is all about a Christmas tree contest).
Most of the albums list “O Tannenbaum” rather than “O Christmas Tree”. Only the Hammered Dulcimer Christmas Album lists it as “O Christmas Tree.” And no one is singing on that track…
But no one can blame the Germans and Austrians for singing O Tannenbaum instead of O Weihnachtsbaum. Somehow, the latter just doesn’t roll trippingly off the tongue. “Christmas Tree” is even easier on the tongue, but that’s just me.
Since 2003, the Rockefeller tree has been recycled to benefit Habitat for Humanity, building houses for the needy. Jesus would probably approve. I just hope the poor appreciate the sacrifice He and the Tree have made for them and not let either gift go to waste. I wouldn’t find it at all objectionable if the poor didn’t vote in great numbers for politicians whose intention is to keep them poor.
Build a house for a man and he’ll live in it for a day. Teach him to build a house, and he’ll have a home for a lifetime.