The Christmas Tree
December 17, 2021

Christmas represents many things to each of us, including many different traditions, such as bringing family and friends together. The Christmas tree is another cherished tradition of Christmas. Its origins date back thousands of years and yet it still remains a staple in our Christmas celebrations today.

Decorated trees date back to the ancient Romans, who during their winter festivals, decorated trees with small pieces of metal during Saturnalia, which was a winter festival, honouring Saturnus, the god of agriculture.

During the Middle Ages, the Paradis tree (an evergreen), was decorated with apples as a symbol of the feast of Adam and Eve, which was held on December 24th.

The first Christmas trees were sold in Alsace in 1531 (during that time, Alsace was a part of Germany). The trees were sold at local markets and were placed, undecorated, in homes. In the Ammerschweier in Alsace, there was an ordinance that stated no person “shall have for Christmas more than one bush of more than eight shoe lengths.”

It has been suggested that in the sixteenth century, Martin Luther was the first to decorate an indoor tree. Furthermore, folklore says that after taking a walk through a forest of evergreens with shining stars overhead, Luther tried to describe the experience to his family by brining a tree into their home and decorating it with candles.

The oldest record of a decorated Christmas tree came from a 1605 diary found in Strasbourg, France (then part of Germany). The tree was described as being decorated with paper roses, apples, and candies.

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, in both Austria and Germany, the tops of evergreens were cut and hung upside down in a living room corner. They were decorated with apples, nuts, and strips of red paper.

The first record of Christmas trees in America was for children in the German Moravian Church’s settlement in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 1747. The actual trees weren’t decorated; however, wooden pyramids covered with evergreen branches were decorated with candles.

It has also been said that the custom of the Christmas tree was introduced in the United States during the War of Independence by Hessian troops. One account tells of a Christmas tree set up by American soldiers at Fort Dearborn (the site of Chicago), Illinois in 1804. Most other early accounts of Christmas trees in the United States were among the German settlers in eastern Pennsylvania.

In 1834, Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, was credited with bringing the first Christmas tree to Windsor Castle for the Royal Family. Some historians have said that in actuality Queen Charlotte, Victoria’s grandmother recalled that a Christmas tree was in the Queen’s lodge at Windsor on Christmas Day in 1800.

By 1850, the Christmas tree had become fashionable in the eastern part of the United States. Before this date, the tradition was considered a quaint foreign custom. The first retail Christmas tree lot opened on the streets of New York in 1851.

Since the 1850’s, the Christmas tree has become a common symbol and tradition of Christmas with many variations and holds a special meaning for each of us. Whatever your Christmas tree symbolizes for you, I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful new year!