Christmas Tree, 1781
Date of Issue
November 16, 1981
Series Time Span
Perforation or Dimension
Typographed by William H. Tibbles Designed by Anita Kunz
In 1781 at Sorel, Quebec, Friederike von Riedesel and her husband Friedrich introduced the illuminated Christmas tree to Canada. The illuminated tree "brought by German people to Canada, symbolizes mankind's eternal hope for peace..." Canadians of German descent have actively participated for over 300 years in the economic, social, and cultural development of Canada. The introduction of the illuminated Christmas tree stands as one of their more visible and lasting contributions to our Canadian traditions and way of life. Major General Friedrich Adolphus von Riedesel, Baron Zu Eisenbach, was born at Lauterbach, Hesse, Germany, in 1738. In 1776 he landed in Canada in charge of a sizeable contingent of German troops sent to help put down the American Revolution. Although the Baroness had two small children and was expecting another, she decided to follow her husband to Canada, arriving in 1777. She came to be known affectionately as "Lady Fritz" in North America. The Americans captured the family at the Battle of Saratoga in October of that year. The Riedesels spent two years in captivity and two further years in the United States. In September 1781 the family returned to Quebec. Governor Haldimand posted the General to Sorel where the Richelieu River flows into the St. Lawrence. The Riedesels first lived in a private home in Sorel, but on Christmas Day 1781, moved into a new home on the site of the present Maison des Gouverneurs. To celebrate Christmas, Friederike Riedesel had the idea of putting up an illuminated Christmas tree, a spectacle which astounded her guests. Their duties discharged, the Riedesels left Canada with heavy hearts to assume responsibility for the Baron's ancestral estates in Germany, following the death of his father. Several thousand charged German soldiers and United Empire Loyalist of German descent settled in Canada permanently. By the late nineteenth century, even new settlers on the Prairies regarded a tree as an essential part of the Christmas festivities. Later on, when Regina was founded, a pioneer woman wrote that "our Christmas tree was a leafless poplar that someone brought from the valley of the Pile O'Bones and ladies had foliaged it with green tissue paper and decorated with strings of rose berries and popcorn..." Thus, introduced in French Canada by the wife of a German general working for the English, the Christmas tree spread across all of Canada. The 15-cent stamp was designed by Toronto artist Anita Kunz, a Canadian of German ancestry. The 1781 stamp features a tree decorated with ornaments that might have been used by the Baroness Friederike von Riedesel.
Canada Post Corporation. [Postage Stamp Press Release], 1981.
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