We didn’t always put up our Christmas trees as early as the day after Thanksgiving (or before!) Decades ago, our forefathers brought in trees they cut, possibly from the open hills surrounding them, on Christmas Eve. Before electric lights, they may have placed candles on the trees to illuminate the long, dark night.
The celebration of Christmas, and the feature of the tree as a symbol, is not solely a Christian observance; parts of its history we can trace back 4,000 years to the cradle of civilization, its roots in a festival of renewal in ancient Mesopotamia and in Roman revels. The origin of the tradition of bringing a Christmas tree into our homes is rather a ‘history-mystery’ fed by countless legends. But one of the first concrete examples to which we can refer is a 16th century law in Alsace which determined the size allowed per citizen for this Christmas foliage. (source: 4000 Years of Christmas)
Whatever the origin or tradition from which the tree comes, it’s a beautiful one that seems to symbolize, at least to this observer, the peace and hope that the Christmas holiday has come to espouse. This is largely due to the constancy of the tree itself, a caretaker, who, putting down unshakeable roots, offers fruits, shade, an alluring aroma, and even the air we breathe, standing silent and strong, reliable.
Of course, it is not just the fir or pine tree species who steadfastly offers us these gifts, but all variety of these lovely creations. Let’s celebrate the trees by showcasing a few books new to Smiley Library that pay homage to them, the books themselves cherished offerings of the trees.
Many tree species that have populated the Earth for ages offer us the gift of wisdom, if we look closely enough. We see that California’s redwoods evolved needle-like leaves capable of absorbing fog, which spares the trees from having to transport water 350 or so feet from their roots to their uppermost branches. This fact and others are revealed in In Search of the Old Ones: An Odyssey Among Ancient Trees, in which author Anthony Fredericks takes the reader along on his travels to document ten of the oldest living species on Earth. He ruminates with educated imagery on those humans who may have lived among them tens of thousands of years ago. Fredericks also shares his interviews with scientists, and provides the specifics of dendrology, the study of woody plants, and its classifications.
Peter Wohlleben (The Hidden Life of Trees) continues this celebration of our aged friends in The Power of Trees: How Ancient Forests Can Save Us If We Let Them. He shows us too, like Fredericks, that the old trees adapt to climate change by passing their wisdom through generations, and that this knowledge can ensure our future–if we are able to protect the ancient forests. Forester Wohlleben offers a pointed critique of harmful forestry practices that have wreaked havoc on the ecosystems, the animal and insect populations local to the forests, and urges humans to allow trees to heal themselves.
Other new books include Trees, a definition guide to over 500 species of trees from around the world. Botanist Allen Coombes explains what a tree is, how they are classified, and how to keep a record of the trees you have seen. Included are over 1,000 full-color photographs.
If you read Spanish, or know someone who does, new to our International Language Collection is a Spanish-language text featuring trees, or ‘árboles,’ El Dios del Jardín: Reflexiones Sobre la Cración, la Cultura y el Reino. Author Andrew Peterson shares his own story, “walking through a forest of memories,” by tying in the relevance of trees and nature in the Christian tradition. He builds a strong biblical connection between people and trees in his attempt to inspire the reader to see God working through nature.
You won’t want to miss The Tree and the River, a children’s picture book which, without a word, paints a poignant time-lapse portrait of humankind, and its impact on the natural world. Author/artist Aaron Becker uses as its center the life cycle of a tree on the banks of winding river. The tree grows from its youth into its ancient age, bearing silent witness to the flow of time and change and the dynamic effects, each on the other, between nature and man, between us and our beloved trees.