Blog
Contact our team of tree care experts today to schedule service!

The History of the Christmas Tree Goes Back Farther Than You Might Realize

Brush up on the origins of the true hallmark of holiday decor.

Oh Christmas Tree..

The holiday season is a time to dust off the ornament boxes and trim the tree (or trees!) in your home. Whether you prefer white string lights or multicolored bulbs, your tree aesthetic sets the tone for the rest of your Christmas decorations. From vintage Shiny Brites to DIY ornaments, these baubles brighten up trees of all shapes and sizes and make charming display areas for Christmas gifts. But do you know where the history of the Christmas tree came from?

Before Christmas trees were considered essential decor for the holidays, they were simply fragrant evergreens that served as a source of joy during the harsh winter months. Here, we’ll take you through the most useful—and interesting—Christmas tree history here to dazzle guests with at your annual holiday party.  

What does the Christmas tree symbolize?

In ancient cultures, the winter solstice was heralded as the beginning of brighter days ahead—an indication that the sun god was regaining his strength. Evergreen trees, of course, retained their color through all seasons, and thus were displayed and embraced in coordination with the solstice as a reminder of warmer months.

In Egypt, a similar mindset was adopted. Their Sun God, Ra, typically grew weak as conditions became colder and darker. The solstice was seen as the turning point in seasons, so they decorated their homes with palm leaves and branches. Similarly, in ancient Rome, a feast called Saturnalia was held during the solstice, which also encouraged people to celebrate the springtime (and bountiful harvest) ahead with evergreen decorations.

When did Christmas trees originate?

The true Christmas tree tradition can be traced to 16th-century Germany, where Christians began to decorate trees—or, if times were tough, simple pyramid-shaped stacks of wood— inside their homes. The tradition of adding candles to the tree branches is most commonly attributed to Martin Luther, leader of the Protestant Reformation movement in the 1500s. (Legend suggests he was inspired by the stars in the night sky and wanted to recreate the scene in his own home using candlelight.)

Martin Luther and his family on Christmas Eve in Germany from a 19th century print published in Leipzig, Germany.HULTON ARCHIVE GETTY IMAGES

Some say the first-ever Christmas tree was in London, near what is now Leadenhall Market. However, it seems it was a one-time trend, as Christmas trees wouldn’t be back in Britain until the 19th century.

In 1419, a guild in Freiburg put up a tree decorated with apples, flour-paste wafers, tinsel and gingerbread. In “Paradise Plays” that were performed to celebrate the feast day of Adam and Eve, which fell on Christmas Eve, a tree of knowledge was represented by an evergreen fir with apples tied to its branches. Flanders finds documentation of trees decorated with wool thread, straw, apples, nuts and pretzels.

In what country did the Christmas tree originate? And are Christmas trees religious?

Despite the Christmas tree’s roots in Christianity, most Americans refused to adopt the tradition at first because they believed it to be attached to Pagan beliefs. The tradition was mostly contained to Germany until the late 1700s and early 1800s. Until then, the Puritans of New England upheld especially strict views of Christmas in America, and people were severely punished if they celebrated or decorated in any way. (They believed the holiday was so sacred that a church service was the only appropriate way to celebrate.) This solemn American observance of Christmas continued until Irish and German immigrants began to make their way across the Atlantic and establish their own traditions and regulations despite the Puritan rule.

December 1848: The Royal Christmas tree is admired by Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their children.HULTON ARCHIVE GETTY IMAGES

German settlements, particularly in Pennsylvania, typically decorated community trees in the late 18th century, and soon the trees found their way into the individual homes of German families—but most of the country was still skeptical. It wasn’t until England’s Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (who was of German heritage) were depicted in a popular newspaper in 1848 standing around a Christmas tree with their family that the tradition caught on. Americans were hereby convinced that Christmas trees were desirable holiday decorations.

Where did the custom of decorating Christmas trees originate?

Other than the candle aesthetic already established in Europe, decorations like ornaments (often imported from Germany) became more popular in the late 1800s, and homemade decorations like cookies and garlands (think: popcorn, berries, nuts, and more) became decorating staples.

Old fashioned decorated Christmas tree with popcorn garlands and candles. CLASSIC STOCK GETTY IMAGES

These more homespun decorations gave way to electric lights and synthetic materials, like tinsel, as technological and industrial developments changed throughout the 20th century. The popular Shiny Brite ornaments, inspired by imported German glass ornaments, marked the beginning of the U.S. ornament industry in the early-to-mid 1900s.

Where does the National Christmas tree come from?

The tradition of gigantic Christmas trees in public spaces seems to be an American one that dates back to the late 19th century. The electricity lobby pushed for the first “National Christmas Tree” at the White House as a publicity stunt for the glories of electricity: a nearly 60-ft.-tall balsam fir tree covered in 2,500 light bulbs. A 20-ft.-tall Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center first went up in 1931 when the building was still under construction; by putting so many people unemployed during the Great Depression back to work, the tree became a symbol of hope.

In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge started the White House’s National Christmas tree-lighting tradition with a 48-foot Balsam Fir brought to Washington, D.C., from Vermont. The annual ceremony continues today, and the tree, a blue spruce grown in Virginia, is now planted on the north side of the Ellipse at the White House.

A man walks past the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center before sunrise on Dec. 5, 2019, in New York City. Gary Hershorn—Getty Images

In 1931, a simple tree was placed in the middle of Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, New York. Soon after, it became a tradition similar to the White House tree to signify the start of the holiday season in New York City. This tree is typically a Norway spruce and is selected by the head gardener at Rockefeller Center.

*content may have been edited for design purposes

*Repost | Credit :

https://www.countryliving.com/life/a45590/christmas-tree-origin/

https://time.com/5736523/history-of-christmas-trees/

Schedule A Tree Care Consultation

Fill out this form or call us at (609) 853-5572 to get started.
Contact