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Oh, Christmas Tree

During the Christmas season you can still regularly hear the children's song 'Oh dennenboom' in the average shopping street in the Netherlands. The song mentions a pine tree that does not yet have 'candles on it'. And that's actually a good thing

Anyone who opens the Provinciale Drentsche en Asser Courant from a hundred years ago will quickly read how much misery burning candles cause. Often with children as the main victim. No wonder that same newspaper on December 24, 1936, advised its readers: "Branches, on which candles have been placed, should never be too close to curtains, whereby any flames could quickly spread into the easily flammable materials. Nor is the lighting of candles an activity to be left to children. This work is best entrusted to an adult. In spite of all precautions, a bucket of water and a sponge attached to a stick should always be kept close at hand in the vicinity of the tree; so that any igniting branches can be extinguished immediately.”

Christmas in the potato flour factory
Fortunately, today we have electric Christmas tree lights. We have Edward Hibberd Johnson, inventor Thomas Edison's right-hand man, to thank for that. In 1882, he lit his Christmas tree with a mix of red, white and blue light bulbs. The Detroit Post and Tribune was wildly enthusiastic. But it took a long time for electric Christmas lights to conquer the market. The first electric Christmas lights appeared in Drenthe in the 1920s. For example during the 1925 Sunday school Christmas celebration of the reformed church of Oranjekanaal. This took place in the large engine room of the potato flour factory 'Oranje'. The Provinciale Drentsche en Asser Courant reported: 'Where other days the noise of the machines sounded, now rang the cheerful children's voices. The beautifully decorated Christmas tree was a surprise for young and old. The beautiful tree was electrically lit thanks to the good care of the engineer, Mr. Loman.”

German lights from Zeijen
Baker Jan Fledderus (1906-1975) from Zeijen was one of the first private persons in Drenthe to order electric Christmas lights in the 1930s. He sent his brother-in-law, Groninger Albert Piest to F. Groeneveld at the Rademarkt. There, Albert bought a very solid set of 'Christbaum Beleuchtung’ for Jan Fledderus. These lamps were marketed in Germany from around 1927. In 1946 baker Fledderus decorated the Christmas tree in his bakery with them. He wanted to cheer people up in the dark years after the war. And he not only hung lights in the Christmas tree, but also raffle tickets. Everyone who bought something received one of these raffle tickets. Among the participants he raffled off products from his own bakery such as cream cake, currant bread, Christmas wreaths and spiced cake. The baker drew the winning tickets under the watchful eye of school teacher Maarten Dirks Lammerts. It seems that the gentlemen adjusted the results every now and then. They made sure that the prizes mainly end up with the people in the village who really needed them.

Don't Throw It Away
When Jan Fledderus' daughter heard about the Don’t Throw It Away campaign in the spring of 2021, she decided to donate the Christmas lights that her father looked after so well all his life to the Drents Museum.