O Christmas Tree!

Local Displays Offer History and Inspiration

As the famous lyrics by Ernst Anschütz say, “O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree—How lovely are thy branches.”

The simple words conjure up anything but basic images. Bright colors, twinkling lights and often nostalgic ornaments fill our minds during this holiday season.

The tradition of one of the most compelling symbols of this time of year, the Christmas tree (how we envision it today), began in Germany and has been attributed to Martin Luther.

According to, “it is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles.”

Later came “natural” decorations like apples, berries and nuts, and of course the invention of electricity brought about white and colorful lights strung across branches.

These days, Christmas trees are as unique as the homes they brighten—whether real or artificial—and have taken on a mind of their own. Area displays feature the quirky and classic and offer creative inspiration:

Evergleams On Eighth

Aluminum Kitsch-mas, Inc. (MAKi), a nonprofit, was formed with the mission of establishing a museum type space that could be visited year-round to share all of the aluminum treasures that were manufactured in Manitowoc.

MAKi officers Barb Bundy-Jost, President; Jordan Kabot, Secretary; and Cathy Karl, Treasurer, say it’s important to share the history of Manitowoc with the community. Started in 2015 by a local gentleman who wanted to share trees from his own collection, Evergleams on Eighth has grown considerably.

“Although often reminded of the maritime heritage of the area, this aluminum history, since the late 1800s, was also very important,” the group says. “And those beautiful trees are a reminder of the 1960s and are an enjoyment of the holiday season! Each year, more businesses joined the event, trolley tours and the expanded display at the library enhanced the visitor’s holiday viewing.”

Aluminum Specialty produced millions of the “Space-Aged” trees, first introduced for the 1959 Christmas season when they were an immediate success. Sales began to decline in the late 60s when families joined the sentiments of Charlie Brown who in the 1965 television special, longed for a less commercial holiday. Final production was in 1971, when the company refocused its efforts on the children’s cookware sets they had always been known for.

“In 2004, the book Season’s Gleamings was published by two local photographers. In their book they mention how often they found the trees at garage sales for $1 or $2 when they returned from college in the late 80s and started buying them,” the group explains. “They set them up in their downtown Manitowoc Studio during the holidays and were surprised at how many people would stop in to look closer and relate stories. The book even gained national attention and was featured on several new outlets. This book is what spurred our 2 biggest collectors to get started on their own ‘forest’ of trees! From that, we go back to the beginning of this story and the creation of Evergleams On Eighth!

“75-80% of all Evergleams were produced in silver, but with such a seasonal product, innovations in branch styles and colors were soon introduced to the expanding market,” the group says. “Branch styles include the original Straight Needle, the most popular Fountain (sometimes referred to as Pom Pom) the Swirl, and some variations of those including Long Needle, Frosty and Bow-Tipped They even made a tree called the Peacock, that could (lay) flat against a wall!

“The trees were available in sizes from 2′ to 8′ and sold for moderate prices with most retailing for less than $25. A quick look on eBay reveals prices today that can be from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on condition and rarity. We surmise that about 1 in every 10,000 trees was pink, which is the Holy Grail for enthusiasts. Other colors are gold, green, blue tipped silver, blue-green and the blue-burgandy, which is the rarest of all, with only few known to have survived!”

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Festival of Trees

Each holiday season, the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay proudly presents the Festival of Trees. This family-friendly event features more than 50 uniquely decorated trees sponsored by area organizations and individuals.

“Trees typically are decorated so their themes align with the sponsoring organizations,” Benjamin Wideman, Director of Marketing and Communications, says. “The trees are spread throughout the inside of our museum, with many of them placed alongside our historic trains and exhibits. Festival of Trees is a wonderful way for visitors to warm up inside during the winter months, while exploring railroad history and getting in the holiday spirit.”

There isn’t a theme, per se, that all organizations must follow when decorating their trees. Rather, all of the organizations or individuals are welcome to decorate their trees as they see fit (we supply the trees unless the group wants to provide their own). 
Last year, for example, a local automobile shop sponsored a tree and handcrafted spark plugs into the shape of a star that was placed atop the tree. Another tree had more than 100 vintage Barbie ornaments, all of which were auctioned off after the event to raise money for their group. In years past, a library crafted their entire tree out of books stacked to look like a tree. Visitors love coming to the event to see not only our trains and exhibits, but also the creativity displayed in the holiday tree designs.

Festival of Trees is among the biggest fundraisers of the year for the National Railroad Museum. The organizations and individuals who sponsor and decorate trees are directly contributing to the museum. They, in turn, help draw even more visitors to the museum during the holidays, and they further help support the museum.

“We welcome about 20,000 visitors during the holidays. As a thank you to the community, we feature reduced admission during Festival of Trees—the event is part of the daily admission cost,” Wideman explains. “Although the museum is nationally designated, we are a 501(c)(3) organization and receive no government funding. So these fundraising events are important to help us fulfill our mission, which is to inspire lifelong learning by providing dynamic educational opportunities through the preservation of railroad objects, engaging exhibits and innovative programs.”

Festival of Trees kicks off on November 17 and continues daily through December 31. 
For more information, visit

Merry-Time Festival of Trees

The Door County Maritime Museum is known for many things, but Christmas decor may not be the most top of mind. 
First held in 2012, the Merry-Time Festival of Trees celebrates the holidays with dozens of decorated trees and decorative displays in the museum.

“Fantastically decorated by local businesses, organizations and residents, each of these extraordinary trees is adorned with beautiful ornaments and special surprises,” Sam Perlman, Deputy Director & Development Manager, says. “Best of all, every tree will go home with a lucky winner in our Merry-Time Festival of Trees raffle!”

Trees will remain at the museum until January 1 so they can be enjoyed by all visitors through the holidays.
The program has grown to more than three dozen trees, wreaths and holiday decorations. Since the trees are created by individuals and organizations, they are different and unique each year.

As this takes place during the quieter time in Door County, it becomes a truly local and community celebration.
Museum admission of $15 for adults includes a free Merry-Time Festival of Trees raffle ticket. Additional raffle tickets are $5 each or 6 for $25. All children 17 and younger accompanied by an adult receives FREE admission to the Museum every Sunday during the festival – November 13, 20, 27, December 4, 11, 18.
The Festival kicks off with Santa at the Museum and Kids day on Saturday, November 12. Kids Day & Santa at the Museum!

Santa arrives via U.S. Coast Guard boat at 10am. Socially distanced photo opportunities with Santa available 10am-2pm. Children are encouraged to bring their Letters to Santa, and to spend time at the Museum participating in holiday activities, and exploring the Museum—for FREE! Lights On at DCMM, 4pm! Santa lights things up with the holiday lighting of the Museum, Tugboat John Purves and Festival of Trees.

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