Long Island's Hidden Past: Hessian soldiers and the Christmas tree

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OLD BROOKVILLE -

During Christmas time in a graveyard on the North Shore of Long Island, a small Christmas tree stands.

News 12 Long Island's Danielle Campbell and photojournalist Brian Endres share the story of the soldiers who were buried at an Old Brookville cemetery and why they are part of our Christmas traditions in this month's Long Island's Hidden Past.

Lying in the East Hillside Cemetery for more than two centuries, in unmarked graves, are the bodies of German mercenaries known as Hessian soldiers.

Historian Steve Boerner says that during the American Revolutionary War the highly skill combat soldiers were paid by the British to fight the Patriots. Thousands of Hessians were stationed on Long Island during the seven-year occupation.
The locals, who were under occupation, preferred them to the British - they taught the children German and games. 

But it was not all fun and games, the soldiers held Long Islanders hostage while fighting off Patriot attacks. They also foraged across the Island gathering supplies needed for the British Army.

As the war waged on, the Hessians shared more of their customs and culture. It is believed the German soldiers were the first to bring a Christmas tree to Long Island.

Back in 1732, a Dutch church stood on the site and Hessian soldiers are believed to have worshiped here and possibly celebrated Christmas here as well.

On Saturday, Dec. 9, starting at 4 p.m., there will be a tree lighting and commemoration at the East Hillside Cemetery followed by a Hessian Christmas party.

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