Campus & Community

This month in Harvard history

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December 1832 – In his Cambridge home, German-born Charles Theodore Christian Follen, Professor of the German Language and Literature (1830-35), introduces the Christmas tree to the United States. The “Harvard Alumni Bulletin” (Dec. 23, 1968) reconstructs the scene:

“[. . .] When his son was two years old, Follen determined that the lad should carry into adulthood fond memories of bright Christmases. He went to the woods near his home, which was on the corner of what is now Follen Street, and cut an eight-foot tree. He barred his study to all and set about cutting paper ornaments. He carefully placed over a hundred candles on the tree. All the neighborhood children had been invited to the Follen house for a great and mysterious occasion. When he flung wide the study door, the pure delight of Christmas twinkled in the eyes of children for the first time in these United States.”

Dec. 2, 1859 – Abolitionist John Brown is executed in Virginia. When the news reaches the Divinity School, many students attend a funeral service for him at Tremont Temple, while a Divinity School senior offers an evening prayer of “thanks for the vindication of justice.”

– From the Harvard Historical Calendar, a database compiled by Marvin Hightower