Whether you live in North America, in German-speaking Europe, or almost anywhere else in the western world, the way Christmas is celebrated has been influenced in large measure by Austria and Germany. The Christmas tree comes from Germany. “Silent Night” (“Stille Nacht”), the world’s best known Christmas carol, originated in Austria.
The German religious reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546) is often credited with starting the Christmas tree custom, but the first appearance of a Tannenbaum was recorded in Germany many years after Luther’s death. It was in 1605 in Strasbourg in Alsace, then in Germany, that a chronicler wrote (in old German): “Auff Weihenachten richtett man Dahnnenbäum zu Strasburg in den Stuben auff…” (“At Christmas they set up Christmas trees in Strasbourg in their rooms…”).
But it is likely that the custom dates back to at least around 1550, since the first of several “Tannenbaum” ballads was circulating in print at that time. By the 19th century this custom had spread across most of Germany and beyond. Several royal Germans are credited with helping extend the tree decorating custom beyond Germany’s borders. The Duchess of Orleans (from Mecklenburg) brought it to Paris, while other Germanic royals brought the Christmas tree to England and other European countries. But it was commoners—emigrants from Germany—who brought the Weihnachtsbaum to America.
Hessians were German soldiers who served as auxiliaries to the British Army during the American Revolutionary War. The term is an American synecdoche for all Germans who fought on the British side, since 65% came from the German states of Hesse-Kassel and Hesse-Hanau. Known for their discipline and martial prowess, around 30,000 Germans fought for the British during war, comprising a quarter of British land forces. While known both contemporaneously and historiographically as mercenaries, Hessians were legally distinguished as auxiliaries: whereas mercenaries served a foreign government on their own accord, auxiliaries were soldiers hired out to a foreign party by their own government, to which they remained in service. Auxiliaries were a major source of income for many small and poor German states, typically serving in wars in which their governments were neutral.
Today, roughly 10,000 French-Canadians have a German soldier as an ancestor. If your surname follows, you may have a German soldier as an ancestor: Arnoldi, Bauer, Berger, Besner, Besré, Black, Brown, Carpenter, Caux/Claude, Eberts, Frédéric, Grothe, Hamel, Heynemand, Hinse, Hoffman, Hunter, Inkel, Jordan, Koenig, Laître/Lettre, Lange, Lieppé, Maheu, Matte, Nieding, Olivier, Pave, Piuze, Pétri, Plasse, Pratte, Rose, Rouche, Schenaille, Schmidt, Schneider, Steinberg, Stone, Trestler, Wagner, Wolfe. Some of these surnames were simply translated from German into French or English, while others went through a more complex transformation
The database below consists of authors who wrote about the immigration of Germans to Quebec beginning with Hessian auxiliary soldier who fought along side the British.
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