Progressive reformers initially championed the Christmas tree a means of counteracting the “crass materialism” of America’s holiday celebrations. Yet while the tree may have been introduced as a means to dampen commercialism, it instead did the opposite, writes Greg Beato. It gave retailers a new item to sell, and that item in turn prompted additional spending. Once you had a tree, you need ornaments and also a vast array of presents. Once you were decorating inside, why not outside too? The tree helped furnish the holiday, and the increasing number of furnishings associated with Christmas gave people more and more ways to make Christmas a larger and more significant part of their lives. And of course, Beato observes, the tree would not have caught on it as it did had it not been for the efforts of entrepreneurs determined to increase its availability and affordability.
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