The history of the Christmas tree


As we start to wrap up each year, it is normal to be excited during the holiday season. Christmas day approaches slowly, day by day, and it is a relief to get to have a nice break away from school for a while. Most of us are usually busy around this time and have a lot on their hands as far as shopping for gifts. We get so caught up in making sure all of our loved ones receive a gift for Christmas, that we never really take a second to think about the actual meaning of the day. With this being said, my question for you is this: Have you ever wondered why we have Christmas trees? Yeah, we spend time decorating and putting the presents under the tree, but why? 

While the tradition of bringing in trees to decorate at Christmas is not something easy to pin down to just one moment or story; it does have origins in several places in history. One belief states that the history of Christmas trees goes back to the symbolic use of evergreens in ancient Egypt and Rome. It continues with the German tradition of candle lit Christmas trees first brought to America in the 1800s. Plants and trees that remain green all year had a special meaning, long before the advent of Christianity. Ancient people hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows, just as people decorate their homes today during the festive season. Many countries believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness. In the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes, Germany was credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition. It is believed that Martin Luther, a 16th century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. As he was walking towards his home one winter evening, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling in the night sky above the evergreens. He erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles, to recapture the scene for his family. The first record of a Christmas tree being displayed was in the 1830s by the German settlers of Pennsylvania. The idea of putting presents under a tree each year may have originated with St. Nicholas, a bishop famous for giving gifts to poor children.

Each of these stories and traditions have culminated into what today is known as a Christmas icon. As Americans around the nation chop down, purchase and bring out of storage their yearly Christmas tree, they follow in the footsteps of many generations before them.