Every year people search far and wide to find the perfect Christmas tree, whether it be real or artificial, this tree is a necessity for the festive season. It is a tradition that predates Christianity, as trees that remain green year-round have always held a special place in the lives of people across the globe. The ancient Egyptians and Romans would both fill their homes with evergreen trees in celebration of the Solstice.
The idea of bringing trees into the home has been around for thousands of years but the Christmas tree as we know it today is credited to 16th Century Germany. Christians would bring decorated trees into their homes or build decorated pyramids of woods. The addition of lights was brought about by a protestant reformer who after seeing the stars amongst the trees one night decided to lace his tree with lighted candles.
It wasn’t until the 19th century that America first experienced this German tradition when the first Germans settled in Pennsylvania in the 1830’s. These settlers brought the tradition of the Christmas tree to the states, but as the trees were viewed as a pagan symbol, most did not accept them. To Americans, this pagan symbol was not to be adopted and was dubbed a heathen tradition along with carols, decorations and any other festive traditions. This sentiment was wide spread, so much so that Massachusetts enacted a law that banned any observance of Christmas other than a church service. The puritan faith ensured people were fined and condemned for any indulgence in festivities right up until the late 19th century when there was an increase in Irish and German immigrants in the state.
Across the pond in the UK the year was 1846 and Queen Victoria with her German husband Prince Albert were celebrating Christmas with a traditional German Christmas tree. That year they were sketched in the Illustrated London News as a family next to their tree and due to Victoria’s popularity, everyone wanted a tree. It wasn’t only the Brits however that felt Christmas trees were on trend, as fashion-conscious America were quick to emulate the Royals.
The trend continued well into the 1890s by which time Germany was shipping Christmas ornaments to the UK and USA. It was also noted that whilst most European countries preferred to have smaller trees of around 3-4 feet tall, the Americans chose trees that reached their ceiling. The Americans also chose to decorate their tree with homemade decorations whereas Europeans, particularly Germany, would use apples, oranges, cookies and nuts. Instead of tinsel garland they would also use coloured popcorn, berries and nuts tied together on a string. Traditionally, candles would be string across the tree in the 16th century which as you can imagine was highly flammable and caused numerous tree fires. Thankfully, the invention of electricity meant Christmas lights were developed so that Christmas trees could glow bright all day long. Since this time, the modern Christmas tree as we know it was born and has adorned the homes of people across the globe.