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Christmas Tree History

Christmas trees haven’t always been about Christmas…

Actually, in many countries it was believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness.

Many ancient people such as the Northern European and Vikings believed that the sun was a God, and the short days of winter were because the sun God was weak and sick. The Evergreen boughs reminded them of all the green plants that would grow again when the sun god was strong, and summer would return. Ancient Egyptians filled their homes with green palm rushes, which symbolized for them the triumph of life over death. Early Romans used evergreen boughs to honor Saturn, the god of agriculture.

So how did we get to where we are today? Well finally in 1830’s Germans were credited with the Christmas tree traditions we see now. But it didn’t take in America quickly or easily. In fact, in the 1840’s Christmas trees were still seen as pagan symbols. Carols and decorated trees were considered heathen traditions that desecrated the sacred event. Massachusetts went as far as fining people for decorating and making any observance of December 25 (other than church services) a penal offense. This went on until later in the 19th century when America had an influx of German and Irish immigrants.

Along with the Germans it is believed that Martin Luther a Protestant reformer, was key to creating the trees we have now. Germans decorated their trees with apples, nuts, marzipan cookies, and died popcorn interlaced with berries. Martin Luther was believed to be the first to add lighted candles to a tree. 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.

Come the 20th century you’ll start to see homemade ornaments decorating American Christmas trees. And once electricity was invented Christmas trees everywhere could glow for days. Thus, the Christmas tree became an American tradition!

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