The origin of the Christmas tree


Maggie Robinson

Christmas trees across America are put up around the holidays and decorated with different kind of ornaments and tree toppers to celebrate Christmas.

Why do Americans put a tree in their living room for a month during the holiday season? 

The first recorded document of a ‘Christmas tree’ was in 1510. In Riga, Latvia, men of a local merchants’ guild had a tree decorated with artificial roses. They then danced around it and then set it aflame. The rose was said to be a symbol of the Virgin Mary. 

Although there are early accounts, 16th century Germany is credited with starting the tradition. Christians would bring a decorated tree into their house. There was a law where a tree wasn’t allowed to be taller than eight shoe lengths (approximately four feet). Some others would build Christmas pyramids out of wood and decorate them with candles and evergreens. 

Around the mid 16th century it was also popular to decorate trees with apples and various other edible items. So, they started to call Christmas trees sugar trees. Candles were used in 18th century France to light up the trees. 

In the early 1800s, German settlers introduced America with the Christmas tree. It started with tabletop trees and then quickly expanded to the modern day, floor to ceiling, trees. In 1851, live Christmas Trees were sold commercially, but it wasn’t until around 1880 that Sears and Roebuck & Company started to sell artificial trees. 

In 1853, Franklin Pierce, 14th president of the United States, was credited with bringing the first Christmas tree to the White House. 

The first glass ornaments were introduced from Germany to the United States in the late 1800s. The most popular style was spheres, toys and figures became more common later on. 

All of these things impact our current day Christmas tree a lot. Some households use glass ornaments, some use homemade or even plastic. Traditionally, Americans use a floor to ceiling height tree. Buying a Christmas tree at a local farm stand, Christmas tree farm, or nursery. On average, approximately 25-30 million trees are sold annually in the United States. 

Families across The United States have different traditions involving the Christmas tree. Some people decorate the tree the night of Christmas eve. Others decorate their tree weeks before Christmas or even Thanksgiving.

Different people do different things with their Christmas tree, everything from the style of the tree to what you put on top. Some buy an artificial tree and use the same one until it breaks while others buy a new, living tree every year. Tree skirts and tree stands are one of those things you don’t think about before purchasing a Christmas tree. You have to remember that in order to have the Christmas tree, you need a stand. You also want to cover that ugly stand with a tree skirt. It could be a fluffy snow type or a piece of fabric with a hole in the middle.

String lights can be any color on a Christmas tree. Colorful Led bulbs and plain white lights are on both ends of the decoration type spectrum. A star is one of the most popular tree toppers along with an angel or Santa Claus. 

Next time you see a Christmas tree in a house window, you’ll think of where the tradition originated.