The history of the Christmas tree

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The history of the Christmas tree

Alexandra Phinney, Web Editor

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As the Christmas season draws near, everywhere you go you can see Christmas decorations and trees. Christmas trees may be a part of the Christmas tradition now, but where did this idea of decorating evergreen trees and keeping them in our homes come from? Well, “The Pioneer Press” staff has decided to research this tradition for you.

    For many centuries pagan peoples have brought boughs of evergreen trees into their homes for various reasons, but they were often used as decorations to celebrate the winter solstice. The winter solstice was traditionally a huge holiday for the pagan peoples because it marked the beginning of the an increase in sunlight during the day.

    However, the first time an evergreen tree was used to celebrate Christmas was in Germany during the 16th century. The devout Christians brought the tree inside, and if trees were scarce, they built pyramids out of wood and decorated them with boughs of evergreen and candles. Martin Luther, the protestant reformer, is credited with the first use of candles on a Christmas tree. According to The History Channel, “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.”

    When some of the Germanic immigrated to America, they brought this tradition with them. Unfortunately, the tradition of purchasing  Christmas trees had never grown outside Germany, and many early settlers, mainly Puritans, found the tradition degrading to the holiday they thought should be a more somber occasion. However, when Queen Victoria and her family set up a Christmas tree in 1846, the tradition quickly spread throughout Europe and the colonies. Although, “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,” says The History Channel.

    According to The History Channel, early Christmas tree decor  included,

“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.”

    Throughout the centuries, the idea of decorating an evergreen tree to celebrate Christmas has become a tradition. Although it may have caught on slowly, the Christmas tree is now one of the biggest and most recognized symbols of Christmas.


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