Christmas Trees: From Then to Now

The Christmas tree has become one of the most beloved and well-known holiday symbols and it’s been a staple in winter celebrations for centuries.

Many pagan festivals used trees to honor their gods and spirits. In Northern Europe the Vikings considered the evergreen a symbol and reminder that the darkness and cold of winter would end and the green of spring would return. The Druids of ancient England and France decorated oak trees with fruit and candles to honor their gods of harvests, and the ancient Romans decorated trees with candles and charms for Saturnalia in which they celebrated the winter solstice.

There are many legends surrounding the lore of the Christmas tree. One story tells of an English monk, St. Boniface, who happened upon a group of pagans who were gathered around an oak tree preparing to sacrifice a child. Legend has it that St. Boniface destroyed the tree with one punch from his fist, and a small fir tree grew in its place. St. Boniface called it the Tree of Life and told the pagans it symbolized the life of Christ.

But the use of a Christmas tree indoors appears to have begun in Germany. German Christians would bring trees into their homes to decorate. Sometimes evergreen trees were hard to find, so a large pyramid-like structure was erected and adorned with branches, candles and other knickknacks. When German immigrants came to America, they brought their Christmas tree tradition with them.

artificial christmas treesEarly Christmas trees were often decorated with apples, nuts, cookies, colored popcorn and candles. Later, electrical lights were invented for the Christmas tree, increasing its popularity even more.

Now Christmas trees are everywhere. The National Christmas Tree in Washington is a White House tradition, and thousands flock to Rockefeller Center in New York City to view the thousands of lights and decorations that adorn it. Images of trees are also now widespread during the holidays, appearing on everything from Christmas cards to Spode Christmas tree china, which features a new tree design each year.

From the simple to the ornate, Christmas trees are now the decorating centerpieces of many homes throughout the world.

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