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A (Very) Short, Colorful History of the Christmas Tree

As you take in the magical beauty of your Christmas tree on Christmas morning, have you ever wondered how decorated evergreen trees became symbolic of the holiday? Well, it wasn't always that way.

Christmas trees

Christmas trees were not sold commercially in the United States until 1851 (and back then they were chopped down from various forests).

In fact, as late at the 1840s, Christmas trees were considered a "pagan mockery" of the sacred day, and you could be fined for so much as singing a Christmas carol or hanging an evergreen bough, let alone decorating an entire tree.

It all started back in ancient times, when plants that stayed green through the winter season (such as evergreens) were revered as a sign of life and a way to ward off evil spirits and illness.

Prior to Christianity, the evergreens were also used to celebrate the winter solstice (the shortest day of the year), which falls on December 21 or 22. After this day, ancient peoples believed that the "sun god" would begin to grow strong again, and the green plants symbolized summer and the sun's strength.

Christmas trees

Tinsel was invented in Germany in 1610, and it was made out of real silver!

It wasn't until the 16th century in Germany when decorated trees as we know them today emerged. Devout Christians of that era brought the trees into their homes and decorated them with apples, gilded nuts and paper strips. The Protestant church reformer Martin Luther is said to have been the first person to add lights to a tree (candles) to recreate the look of starlight shining through the boughs.

Christmas Trees Come to America

During the 1800s, German immigrants brought the idea of the Christmas tree to the United States. The trees quickly grew from tabletop size to the now-popular floor-to-ceiling height, but they were still not widespread at this time.

This was because the New England Puritans believed Christmas trees symbolized frivolity, and they imposed fines on those who hung decorations for Christmas. As time went on, and more German immigrants came to the United States, the Puritan belief system went out of favor, and the Christmas tree prevailed.

Some Top Gift Ideas to Put Under Your Tree This Year

Christmas trees

Whether you're shopping for your workaholic uncle, your "soccer mom" sister, or your beloved grandparents, you'll find just the right gift to put a smile on their face with these top nine unique holiday gifts for a healthy home and office (and they're all under $50)!

Meanwhile, in 1846 Queen Victoria and German Prince Albert were pictured in the Illustrated London News ... standing around a Christmas tree. As the royal family was very popular at the time, people in Britain and America began to emulate their behavior, and the Christmas tree officially became a tradition.

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The Christmas Archives

The National Christmas Tree Association

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