Most people in modern western culture have seen, owned or at least heard of Christmas trees. They have been a symbol of the Christmas holiday for years. Plus, they are a tradition that is filled with history and one that many families have held onto for generations. Yet, how many Christmas Tree facts do you know?
So, while most people know what a Christmas tree is. They may not realize all of the history behind this common symbol of Christmas joy. Or even what it means and where the idea of the Christmas tree first came from.
The History of the Christmas Tree
The Christmas tree is actually one of the oldest pieces of Christmas tradition. As the use of evergreen trees has dated back long before the name “Christmas” ever came to be. Check out these original Christmas Tree facts
The first decorated Christmas tree was in Riga, Latvia in 1510.
History books show that Pagans used branches of fir trees to decorate their homes during the winter solstice.
The Romans used fir trees to decorate temples during the festival of Saturnalia.
Christians used fir trees as a sign of everlasting life with God.
Thousands of years ago people began decorating evergreen trees out in the wild as part of their winter celebrations.
To say it has been a tradition for a long time is an understatement.
In 1531, historians found the first printed reference to a Christmas tree in Germany.
But when did evergreen trees become synonymous with Christmas?
Historians can date that back to Northern Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. This is when Christmas trees were actually hung upside down from the ceiling, like a chandelier. Imagine the neck pains decorating a tree this way.
Soon, we started sitting trees up in Christmas tree stands. Then in 1890, the first electric Christmas tree lights were mass-produced in the United States, to help decorate these trees. Thomas Edison’s assistant, Edward Johnson was actually the person behind that idea.
Before that, people used small candles to decorate and light up the tree. Fortunately the new electric light tradition was a much safer alternative to putting open flames on the tree. By 1900, large illuminated Christmas trees started appearing in store fronts all around the country.
Now, we have everything from moving, multi-colored Christmas lights, to animatronic trees. Simply put, technology has changed Christmas trees over time, but the symbolism and meaning behind Christmas trees has still stayed the same.
Christmas Tree Symbolism and Meaning
The Christmas tree is one of the most recognizable symbols of this Christmas holiday in our world today—but what exactly does the Christmas tree mean?
Christmas trees are evergreen trees are seen as a symbol of life because they stay green all-year long. In the 19th century, Christians really began incorporating Christmas trees as part of their Christmas celebrations. Christianity has long thought of the fir tree as the symbol of the Tree of Life.
Christians were also the first to add candles (now lights) and apples to their Christmas fir trees. The candles were a symbol of the light of Christ and the apples were a symbol of the knowledge of man after the original sin.
Another popular thought on the symbolism of the Christmas tree comes from Pagan traditions. Pagan lore states that the time between Christmas and early January are some of the coldest days of the year. Meaning that evil spirits are the strongest during these months.
This is why Christmas trees are brought in the home—as a symbol of protection. They are also lit with lights (formerly candles) to help light up these dark and cold conditions. To keep the bad spirits away.
Peace and Love
Christmas trees not only have their own meaning and symbolism. But, they can be a symbol of peace and love to others as well.
In the late 1940s, Christmas trees even became a symbol of peace following the second world war. In 1947, the people of Oslo, Norway gave a Christmas tree to the city of Westminster, England. This was a symbol of good will and gratitude for Britain’s help during WW II. The city still does the Christmas tree gifting every year.
The Province of Nova Scotia developed a similar tradition in 1971 when they presented the Boston Christmas tree to the city of Boston—this was a symbol of gratitude after the people of Boston provided relieve supplies following a ship explosion in 1917. The tradition still stands today.
Christmas Tree Traditions
Different families tend to have different traditions surrounding their Christmas tree. Even how they incorporate their tree into their own holiday celebrations. Here are some of the most common traditions surrounding the Christmas tree.
- Cakes, cookies, pretzels, snacks, nuts and fruit were used to decorate early Christmas trees. Sometimes small gifts were put inside the tree’s branches instead of underneath the tree. This is a tradition that some people still maintain today. Just think of the strands of popcorn that many families still hang on their tree.
- While Americans decorate their Christmas trees with ribbons, ornament and bulbs—this isn’t what every country does. In Poland and the Ukraine they do it a little different. It is common for Christmas trees to be decorated to look like they have spiders and webs on them.
Even More Christmas Tree Traditions
- Scandinavian and Norse traditions honored the winter solstice on December 25th. They did this by decorating evergreens but they also have another interesting tradition. Burning fir trees to celebrate the end of an old year and the beginning of a new one. This tradition is still around in many communities today.
- Many people cut their Christmas trees down as early as Thanksgiving. This is to enjoy the beauty of their tree all during the “holiday season.” However, some people prefer the old tradition of getting the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. Then they decorate their tree the night before Christmas as a family.
- The Christmas Pickle. This is a fun old German Christmas tradition that is still celebrated in many German and American homes today. The decorator of the tree hides the pickle the night before Christmas. Then whoever finds the pickle (or pickle ornament) on the tree the next morning wins. They are thought to have good fortune for the following year or given an award. Many American families simply let the finder of the pickle open presents first.
These are some of the most common Christmas tree traditions. What traditions does your family have around the Christmas tree? We would love to know in the comments below.
Fun Christmas Tree Facts
Think you know everything about Christmas trees? Here are some fun Christmas tree facts about these festive trees. Even the biggest Christmas fan may not know these facts.
- According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the world’s tallest Christmas tree was a Douglas-fir. It was on display in Seattle, Washington in 1950. This massive Christmas tree was over 220 feet tall, or about the height of a 20-story building.
- The official Christmas tree tradition at Rockefeller Center began in 1933. Since 2004, the tree has had the same star on top. It is 550 pounds and made out of Swarovski Crystals.
- Franklin Pierce (the 14th President of the United States) was the first President to have a Christmas tree in the White House.
- Live Christmas trees have been sold commercially in the United States since 1850. The first Christmas tree retail lot in the United States was established in 1851.
Even More Christmas Tree Facts
- While Christmas trees used to be cut from the wild. Today 98 percent of all Christmas trees used in people’s houses are grown on farms. It takes six to ten years for the average tree to grow 7’ on these farms.
- Artificial Christmas trees were developed in Germany during the 19th century, before they became popular in the United States. The original artificial trees were made out of goose feathers that were died green to look like leaves.
- 93 percent of real Christmas tree consumers recycle their tree in community recycling programs. There are more than 4,000 Christmas tree recycling programs in the United States. Great job!
- Just one acre of Christmas trees provide enough daily oxygen for 18 people. That’s a healthy Christmas tree Fact!
- While Christmas trees can be good for the environment. Teddy Roosevelt actually took a stand on Christmas trees and banned them from the White House when he was president. He stated the ban was for environmental reasons.
Now that you have some fun facts about Christmas trees under your belt. You can really impress your friends and family and your next holiday gathering.
Conclusion: Christmas Tree Facts
There is nothing that gets people in the spirit for the holiday season quite like a fresh-cut Christmas tree. While we may not have our trees up and decorated all year long. These Christmas tree facts can help keep you in the Christmas spirit all year long.
If you liked this article you would love to learn about why we celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December.