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The History of the Christmas Tree

History of the Christmas Tree

There are many stories that speculate about the origin of the use of the evergreen tree in Christmas celebrations, but all stem back to ancient religious ceremonies.

 

In the 16th century, German people are thought to have been the first to place a decorated evergreen tree in their homes.  They used gilded nuts, stars, angels, toys and eventually, burning candles.  The custom became popular throughout Europe, but it was the English who adopted the evergreen as a part of the Christmas tradition.  The first Christmas tree appeared in Windsor Castle in 1841.  It was decorated with items only the wealthy could afford at the time such as candles, fruits, nuts and gingerbread.  Soon, other wealthy families extravagantly decorated their evergreen trees with dolls, toys, jewelry, weapons and candy.

 

In 19th century Pennsylvania, immigrant German settlers displayed a decorated Christmas Tree as an attraction in front of a Church to raise money.  Parishioners felt strongly that it symbolized a return to paganism and demanded its removal.  Gradually, the custom was met with less objection and decorated Christmas trees began to spring up in homes everywhere.  Trimmed with home-made paper ornaments, candy canes and strings of cranberries or popcorn, Americans liked their trees to reach to the ceiling.

 

By 1851, everyone with a strong saw began cutting evergreen trees from forests to be sold commercially as Christmas Trees.  Even the President of the United States, President Franklin Pierce requested the first Christmas Tree be displayed in the White House in 1853.

 

With the invention of the electric light bulb in 1879. illuminated Christmas trees began to appear in front of businesses and stores.  Lighting ceremonies in the middle of town squares marked the beginning of the Christmas season.

 

But as early as 1883, some could see the potential effect of over harvesting our forests.  Visionaries like Sears, Roebuck & Company began offering artificial Christmas trees for as little as 50 cents to the public.

 

Over the next few years, conservationists became alarmed as the supply of evergreen trees diminished in our forests.  Many factions of society began to encourage and support the idea of replacing live trees with artificial "snow" covered trees.

 

In 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt tried to eliminate the display of Christmas trees out of concern that it would decimate the population of evergreen trees in our forests.  But his two sons were staunch adversaries.  With the help of Gifford Pinchot, a well-known conservationist, the President was persuaded that the practice, if done properly, was not harmful to the forests.

 

Outside of the political arena that same year, another solution was found when a New Jersey farmer planted 25,000 Norway spruce trees and created the very first Christmas tree farm.

 

Today, almost 30 million live Christmas Trees are sold each year in the United States courtesy of Christmas Tree plantations.

 

Whether we trim our tree with the most popular decorations or favorites from all over the world, the Christmas Tree appears to be a tradition that will always be the central theme of holiday celebrations.

 

 

 

 

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