With a little creative imagining, you can sing the title of this blog post to the tune of “O Tannenbaum.” More than mere holiday décor, Christmas trees are rooted in Glenwood Springs’ history.
An Ode to a Conifer
The carol, more familiarly known as “O Christmas Tree,” was originally written as a metaphor in which the stately evergreen symbolizes the qualities of beauty and constancy that endure through all seasons. Over time though, the catchy tune became associated with Christmas trees decorated for the holidays. In Glenwood Springs, where the tradition of displaying spectacular Christmas trees in public places is a long-standing one, those attributes are still fitting today.
Sprucing Up Downtown
In the early 1900s, the town Christmas tree was placed smack-dab in the middle of Grand Avenue usually at Eighth Street, but some years at other intersections. Finding the perfect tree was a collaboration between Forest Service personnel who chose the tall pine and members of the local Lions Club who cut the tree down and transported it to town. For residents and visitors, the massive evergreen was a sight to behold. The tree was so big that it had to be counterbalanced by wires suspended between buildings on either side of Grand Avenue!
Adding a festive Yuletide touch, the tree was lavishly decorated with colorful garlands and ornaments. The holiday-time tradition endured until 1949. Increased automobile traffic and slippery roads in December made placing a tree in the middle of the town’s main thoroughfare an enormous obstacle and potentially life-threatening collision hazard for drivers.
Pining for the Past
Like the characteristics of the tree in the legendary Christmas carol, the holiday tradition steadfastly continued, but in a new location. It happened that in the spring of 1933, a perfectly shaped and healthy blue spruce was uprooted from the White River National Forest near Sweetwater and replanted in Glenwood Springs at 11th Street and Grand Avenue. The reason for the move was to honor Louisa Schwarz, a beloved resident who died the previous year and is buried in Glenwood’s pioneer cemetery, not far from Doc Holliday’s memorial marker. Schwarz was known for her green thumb and warm hospitality, especially to children at Christmastime. After a flurry of speeches and fanfare on planting day, the tree took root, grew and matured in its more urban setting.
In 1950, the city spent days stringing lights and lit the spruce for its inaugural Christmas season. Over the years, the living evergreen became Glenwood Springs’ official Christmas tree and new traditions sprouted up around it, including a lighting ceremony on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
Yuletide Joy Indoors & Out
However, nothing is more constant than change. Though the tree at 11th and Grand still stands, the Christmas festivities including the lighting ceremony relocated once more, this time to Hotel Colorado. In 1990, Hotel Colorado took over welcoming in the holiday season with a grand lighting ceremony that has evolved into a full-blown entertainment event held annually on Nov. 25.
Christmas trees made solely of lights and topped with illuminated stars grace the exterior of the historic hotel, one in the center and two streaming down the hotel’s two towers. Evergreen or not, all the trees in the courtyard also are festooned with lights, creating a brilliant night landscape throughout the holiday season. The trees inside the lobby, adorned with ribbons, ornaments and lights, are no less fantastic.
At Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, a musical Christmas tree is a mesmerizing holiday showstopper! No ordinary tree, every bough and branch gets in on the act to delight onlookers. The fantastical tree is wired for sound and lights providing a fun, coordinated effect that comes to life after dark. The lights flash, glimmer and sparkle to the musical stylings of Manheim Steamroller Christmas songs and other familiar holiday tunes.
While the town’s Christmas tree festivities may have changed over time, what remains everlasting is the beauty and charm of spending the holidays in Glenwood Springs.
Further stanzas of the carol continue: “O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree. With what delight I see you.” Glenwood’s Christmas trees and holiday lights have been captivating visitors for generations. Branch out and see for yourself the enduring splendor of Glenwood Springs this winter. Learn more and make plans to visit today!
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