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Classic Covers: O, Christmas Tree!

Published: December 3, 2010

O Christmas Tree! O’ Christmas Tree! Much pleasure thou can’st give me – at least according to the old German carol. Post cover artists, however, show that sometimes the good old Christmas Tree gives us headaches.

Centering the Christmas Tree by Steven Dohanos

Centering the Christmas Tree by Steven Dohanos

Centering the Christmas Tree
Steven Dohanos
December 22, 1951

I was delighted by an e-mail recently from Betsy Norfleet who said her parents were the models for this 1951 cover. This was by artist Stevan Dohanos, and the family would like to know what happened to the original painting. If you know, drop us a line and we’ll pass it on. The models were Betty and George Norfleet of Westport, Connecticut. Betsy and her siblings “all have framed copies of the cover in our homes and I keep mine front and center year-round!” Poor George: first he miscalculated the length and had to get out the saw, and now he’s being scratched alive trying to center this tree. And you know the darn thing will just lean again once it’s all decorated.

Tree Love by Constantin Alajalov

Tree Love by Constantin Alajalov

Tree Love
Contantin Alajalov
Constantin Alajalov

There seems to be a slight miscommunication here. The Mrs. decided to surprise hubby by getting a tree set up and hubby decided, “I know! I’ll surprise her by bringing home a tree.” I wonder what the neighbors will think when he takes a tree away before Christmas. Perhaps he can donate it to a family that hasn’t “surprised” each other yet.

Lighting Christmas Tree by JJ Gould and Guernsey Moore

Lighting the Christmas Tree by JJ Gould and Guensey Moore

Lighting the Christmas Tree
J.J. Gould & Guensey Moore
December 6, 1902

The old German carol continues: “O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree! Thy candles shine so brightly!” Now we know what the lyrics mean. Christmas trees date to ancient times. Christmas trees on Saturday Evening Post covers date to around 1900. A 1902 cover shows a lady lighting the candles on the tree, a practice we definitely do not recommend. How did they keep the tree from catching fire? Well, never mind. It does make a lovely scene.

Topping the Tree by John Falter

Topping the Tree by John Falter

Topping the Tree
John Falter
John Falter

Let’s hope dad doesn’t become an angel in his attempt to place one on the tree. This 1957 cover by artist John Falter should serve as a reminder as you’re looking for the perfect tree this season – not too tall!

Tree in Town Square by Steven Dohanos

Tree in Town Square by Steven Dohanos

Tree in Town Square
Steven Dohanos
December 4, 1948

A bigger project is the tree in the town square from artist Dohanos in 1948. People are aware that artists are rather, er, atypical, but the summer folks walking by in shorts on Martha’s Vineyard that summer must have been baffled when they peeked over the artist’s shoulder. The Edgartown Town Hall that Dohanos wanted has his backdrop was shimmering in the heat, but the artist was adding snow and a large Christmas tree to the scene.

Trimming the Tree by George Hughes


Trimming the Tree by George Hughes

Trimming the Tree
George Hughes
December 24, 1949

In June 1949, artist George Hughes tramped into the Vermont woods, cut down this tree, and dragged it home and decorated it. We told you artists were rather atypical. Although his children loved having Christmas in June, the artist had to work fast. Summer heat was causing the needles to drop and the tree was turning into a hat rack. The resulting painting, however, is one we can all identify with.

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  • Bob McGowan

    All of these past Christmas POST covers are just fantastic. I know I can relate to at least a few of them myself. I think the “scariest” one is ‘Topping the Tree’ by the great John Falter. Danger aside, it’s a stunning cover that still looks so modern, it could almost pass as being from the present—-definitely not 53 years ago. I had just turned 7 months old when it was new, so it has that ‘first Christmas’ sentimental value to me as well.

    I really like the Christmas 2010 cover very much too, and hope the POST will do more NEW Christmas covers in the coming years.