How Did The Christmas Tree Tradition Start?

In ancient times, trees that stayed green all year had a special meaning for people in the winter. Just as people today decorate their homes during the Holidays with pine, spruce, and fir trees, ancient people hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows. In many countries, people believed that evergreens  would ward off witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness.

Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it. Beginning in the 16th century, devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles.

Who Brought Christmas Trees to America?

The first record of a Christmas Tree being on display was in the 1830s by the German settlers of Pennsylvania, although trees had been a tradition in many German homes much earlier. The Pennsylvania German settlements had community trees as early as 1747. But, as late as the 1840s Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols and not accepted by most Americans.

In 1846, the popular royals, Queen Victoria and her German Prince, Albert, were sketched in the Illustrated London News standing with their children around a Christmas tree. Unlike the previous royal family, Victoria was very popular with her subjects, and what was done at court immediately became fashionable—not only in Britain, but with fashion-conscious East Coast American Society. The Christmas tree was an immediate sensation!

By the 1890s Christmas ornaments were arriving from Germany and Christmas tree popularity was on the rise around the U.S. Europeans still used small trees about four feet in height, while Americans liked their Christmas trees to reach from floor to ceiling. The tradition of floor to ceiling trees continues to this day.

The early 20th century saw Americans decorating their trees mainly with homemade ornaments, while many German-Americans continued to use apples, nuts, and marzipan cookies. Popcorn joined in after being dyed bright colors and interlaced with berries and nuts. Electricity brought about Christmas lights, making it possible for Christmas trees to glow for days on end. With this, Christmas trees began to appear in town squares across the country and having a Christmas tree in the home became an American tradition.

Today, the Christmas tree is a worldwide tradition, and the tree is seen in many American homes throughout the holiday season.

Did you know?

The tallest artificial Christmas tree was 170 foot high and was covered in green PVC leaves!. It was called the ‘Peace Tree’ and was designed by Grupo Sonae Distribuição Brasil and was displayed in Moinhos de Vento Park, Porto Alegre, Brazil from 1st December 2001 until 6th January 2002.