What’s Christmas without Christmas trees? Everywhere Christmas is celebrated around the world, there are always brightly decorated Christmas trees all around to mark the season. The trees are of all sizes and are decorated in many different ways, with many different traditions. But how did the tradition of the Christmas tree begin?
The history of Christmas trees goes back to the symbolic use of evergreens in ancient Egypt and Rome and continues with the German tradition of candlelit Christmas trees first brought to America in the 1800s. Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce. 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. The first Christmas trees in America were from the Germans who settled in Pennsylvania in the mid 1800’s. By the 1890s Christmas ornaments were arriving from Germany and Christmas tree popularity was on the rise around the U.S. It was noted that Europeans used small trees about four feet in height, while Americans liked their Christmas trees to reach from floor to ceiling. The early 20th century saw Americans decorating their trees mainly with homemade ornaments, while the German-American sect 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.
Long before the advent of Christianity, plants and trees that remained green all year had a special meaning for people in the winter. Just as people today decorate their homes during the festive season with pine, spruce, and fir trees, ancient peoples hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows. In many countries it was believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness.
I love seeing all the beautifully decorated Christmas trees. I wish we could keep them up all year round. We have 3 trees; our big tree in white in our family room, a smaller, brightly colored one in the living room; and an even smaller tree in our art niche above the stairs, with a bunch of smaller trees around the house as well. If you count our big pine tree on our side yard, we actually have 4 Christmas trees. To me, Christmas trees are just magical.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Holidays to All.