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But there is good evidence that Follen was the first person to bring the decorated tree to New England and, after he set the example, the custom spread.
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The year the National Christmas Tree Association projects sales of 37 million trees. To this day, the Follen Community Church commemorates his introduction of the Christmas tree by lighting a tree on its front lawn as well as selling Christmas trees in the lot across the street to raise funds for church programs.
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As an American, Follen took up the fight against slavery as ardently as he had once fought against the injustices of European despots. His uncompromising abolitionist principles once lost him a job as pastor of All Souls Church in New York City, and his outspoken stand against slavery at a time when abolition was still highly controversial, even in Massachusetts, may have ended his teaching career.
Harvard did not renew his professorship in , but did offer to employ him as a German instructor, at a reduced salary. Supporters, including his wife and the abolitionist poet John Greenleaf Whittier, later said that it was his outspoken views that cost him his Harvard position.
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Relieved of his teaching duties, Follen became a free agent. He wrote, preached, and lectured widely, traveling as far afield as Chicago. In , he received an invitation to preach to a small congregation in East Lexington. Follen accepted, but left after a short while to take a more lucrative position as tutor to a family in Watertown. To fill his position, he recommended a young renegade Unitarian minister named Ralph Waldo Emerson. Follen returned when the congregation came up with the money to hire him full time and to build its own church.
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He designed the octagonal church which still stands, laid out so that the minister would not be elevated above his parishioners. Tragically, Follen did not live to preach in the church which bears his name. He was killed in at the age of 44 in a fire on board the steamship Lexington while crossing Long Island Sound.
It was an idea that was way ahead of its time. She believes that science is very much part of our culture — providing us with knowledge about the world around us — as well as being a source of wonderful stories, and helping us to make sense of who we are.
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