For many of us, it’s finally the best time of the year! Our Christmas trees have been put up, lit, and carefully decorated - taking up much-needed space but looking good while doing it. The Christmas tree as we know it has been a tradition for centuries, passed down from generation to generation, from religion to religion.
If you’ve ever wondered where our obsession with Christmas trees started, then you’re in luck because we’re about to dive headfirst into all kinds of festive tree history!
Christmas Tree Origins
The first trees to be decorated for Christmas are said to come from Germany. Eventually, their traditions spread across the world, reaching the UK in the mid to late 1800s.
Before that, though, Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we know it today.Many believe that it was introduced via a prop in an Adam and Eve play. A fir tree donned the ‘Paradise Tree’ was strung with apples. This represented the Garden of Eden. Eventually, paradise trees were found in homes, along with a ‘Christmas Pyramid’. This was a triangle piece of wood that had shelves and could hold Christmas-themed figures and decorations. By the 16th century, the two had merged, creating the beloved Christmas tree.
German Traditions Made Worldwide
Eventually, these German traditions found their way across the globe. German settlers introduced Christmas trees to countries here and there, lending knowledge and spreading Christmas joy. By the 1800s, Christmas trees were commonplace in countries like the US and UK.
The British Monarch Queen Victoria and her husband (Prince Albert) made the Illustrated London News, which published an illustration of the family standing beside a Christmas tree. As Queen Victoria was a trendsetter of the time, the Christmas tree trend took off, and you then found a tree in most homes!
This illustration was published in a Philadelphian magazine, but with a few tweaks (they removed the Queen’s crown and Albert’s sash) so Americans could relate to them. Before this, Americans were perplexed by the tradition. Eventually, it took off, and American families had trees from the mid-1800s.
Let’s Back it Up a Bit...
Although it is widely accepted that Germany was the originating country of the Christmas tree (as we know it today), trees were celebrated throughout the solstice.
Solstice has been celebrated since the Neolithic period. However, early Romans marked the solstice with an abundance of evergreen trees and boughs! Solstice meant that orchards and farms would soon provide sustenance, and they celebrated that spring was just around the corner with all kinds of branches and trees. Many even felt that they would ward off evil spirits, ghosts, witches, and illnesses.
Before Christianity celebrated Christmas, Pagans celebrated solstice. In fact, it’s said that Romans marked the winter solstice on December 25th!
Christmas Tree Traditions Around the World
Christmas is celebrated around the world, and each country has its own traditions.
In Brazil: It’s summertime in Brazil when Christmas rolls around. They sometimes decorate trees with pieces of cotton to make them look like they’re covered in falling snow.
In Sweden: Most people have Christmas trees but will wait until a few days before the big day to decorate them. Evergreen trees are decorated with stars and straw figures.
In China: A small percentage of people celebrate Christmas in China. Those that do celebrate Christmas pop up fake trees and decorate them with paper chains and lanterns. Christmas trees here are called ‘trees of light’.
In Greenland: As trees don’t live that far north, Christmas trees are imported and decorated with candles and colourful ornaments.