History Culture Customs, Tradition, and Memories
Grandpa Salomon's German Christmas Tree
By Thomas G. Mueller, Jamestown, North Dakota
Salomon Mueller came to America in 1905 from Paris, Bessarabia, South
Russia when he was 21 years old. He came through Canada because the
boat passage was cheaper to Canada than arriving in New York. From
Canada he journeyed to Fredonia, North Dakota where he connected with
the Christian and Louise Labrenz family, working for them until he
married Maria Weispfenning in 1908.
Along with his suitcase he brought with him his German culture.
Grandpa Salomon’s grandfather and great grandfather left Prussia
in 1832 and moved to Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia. Grandpa Salomon’s
great great grandfather left Germany between 1740 and 1750 and moved
A couple of years ago my first cousin, Darlene Mueller Koehn,
wrote to me and described how Grandpa Salomon would make his own
tree in the 1940’s and 50’s to celebrate Christmas.
She wrote, “ I remember Grandpa decorating a handmade feather
Christmas tree with red berries in the tips of the feather branches.
It was a German tradition of making a tree out of feathers by taking
a stick and wrapping the base of the feathers to the stick all the
way up the stick. The tree was three or four foot high and he put
it on top of the big, tall, floor radio. I still remember the beautiful
German ornaments. One was a fragile peacock with a long white tail”.
From this one can conclude that the German culture was still deeply
ingrained in my family, even though they moved out of Germany 200
Exchanging Christmas gifts is a custom that began in memory of the
gifts the wise men brought to Bethlehem for Christ’s birth.
The custom of the Christmas tree started about 1200 years ago in
Germany. The legend tells of how an English missionary named Boniface
came upon a group of heathens preparing to make a human sacrifice
beside an oak tree. Boniface stopped the sacrifice and cut the oak
tree down. When the tree fell a fir tree appeared. Boniface proclaimed
this a miracle and said the fir tree was the tree of life and it
Decorating homes with evergreen branches goes back to ancient
Roman times. The Romans exchanged green tree branches for good luck.
But the actual Christmas tree is credited to the Boniface story
and took place in northern Germany near Geismar, Germany. The Germans
were the first to use Christmas tree decorations, decorating them
with toys, candies wrapped in bright colored paper, angels and lighted
This year in North Dakota we are celebrating Christmas with a
new understanding of how it started and how Christmas was brought
to America when people like my grandfather came here for a new life.
The most important things he brought with him were in is heart,
his traditions, his faith, his German culture and his handmade Christmas
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by contacting Michael