How Did The Tradition Of Christmas Trees Start?

How Did The Tradition Of Christmas Trees Start?

Putting up a Christmas tree is a favorite holiday tradition for many, but how did this tradition get started? The history of Christmas trees goes back to the symbolic use of evergreens in ancient Egypt and Rome. Many ancient people celebrated the winter solstice, which in the northern hemisphere is the shortest day and longest night of the year. They celebrated the solstice because it meant that soon the sun god would become strong again and summer would return. They decorated with evergreen boughs over their door and windows, which reminded them of all the green plants that would grow again when summer arrived.

However it is Germany that is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it today. In the 16th century devout Christian Germans brought evergreen trees into their homes and decorated them. The first record of one being on display in America was in the 1830s by the German settlers of Pennsylvania. 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.

The royals made Christmas trees fashionable in 1846 when Queen Victoria and her German Prince, Albert, were sketched in the Illustrated London News standing with their children around a Christmas tree. 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.

Illustration of royal family gathered around the Christmas Tree in the Illustrated London News in December 1848

By the 1890s Christmas tree populatirty was on the rise around the U.S., and Christmas ornaments were arriving from Germany. Many Americans decorated their trees with homemade ornaments, while the German-American sect continued to use apples, nuts, and marzipan cookies. Popcorn, berries and nuts were also joined together to create garland. With the invention of electricity came Christmas tree lights, which brought more joy to decorating the tree. Across the U.S. Christmas trees began to appear in town squares, and having a Christmas tree in the home became an American tradition.