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History Of The Christmas Tree 


1932 - 2003 - 1929 - 2003

Within a few days it will be Christmas Day, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Born over 2000 years ago, Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God. And even though no one can be certain that Jesus was born exactly on December 25th, that's the day the Roman Catholic Church picked in the 3rd century A.D. as his birthday. And it stuck. 

Many traditions grew up around the Christmas celebration. If you just look around at this time of year, you'll recognize quite a few of them; Santa Claus, poinsettias, gingerbread men, candy canes, presents, angels and Christmas trees, just to name a few. 

How did the Christmas tree become such a central part of the Christmas tradition? Plants and trees that remain green all year have always had a special meaning in winter. In ancient times, evergreen boughs such as pine or spruce were hung over doors and windows to keep evil spirits away. The Druid temples of the ancient Celts were decorated with evergreen branches as a symbol of everlasting life. The ancient Romans, during their winter festival honoring Saturn us, god of agriculture, actually decorated outdoor trees with small pieces of metal. But the Christmas tree didn't appear until the 16th century.  

It is said that Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, was walking through the hush of a spruce forest on his way home one winter evening. The stars were twinkling ever so brightly amidst the evergreen branches and the beauty of it took his breath away. When he arrived home, words were simply not enough to describe the magical scene to his family! Luther ran out to the forest and rushed back with a tree! He actually brought it into the house and then decorated it with candles in an effort to show everyone how lovely it could be. 

The German settlers brought this lovely tradition with them to  America , but it didn't catch on right away. Many Americans still held the Puritan belief that Christmas carols, merry celebrations and decorated trees were frivolous and disrespectful of the sacred nature of Christmas. But as more and more immigrants from Germany and  Ireland continued to bring the tradition with them, the appeal of the Christmas tree began to spread. 

Then in 1834,  Prince Albert , the husband of Queen  Victoria , brought the first Christmas tree to  Windsor Castle for the English Royal Family. Queen  Victoria was extremely popular with her subjects and whatever she did at court immediately became fashionable. And it wasn't just British high society that was impressed. The fashion-conscious society of the American East Coast also took note. The Christmas tree had now become fashionable and by 1850 you could see decorated trees all over the eastern states. By the 1890s Christmas ornaments were being imported from  Germany and Christmas trees were being seen in homes all around the  U.S. So while the Christmas holiday may be a 1,700 year-old celebration, Christmas trees have only been a tradition in America for about 150 years! 

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September 02, 2007

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