The Origin of the Christmas Tree The Origin of the Christmas Tree

Tanya Davis
It seems that many so-called Christian traditions may have actually evolved from Pagan tradition, and the Christmas tree is no exception. Many different groups get historical credit for the origin of the tree; perhaps it depends on one’s heritage which story is believed.

It is said that Celtic Druids revered evergreens because they did not die each winter season, but remained green and alive; they felt this represented everlasting life and hope. The druids covered their trees with charms of love, fertility, wealth, and symbols of prosperity. Egyptians also used trees to celebrate the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year. They brought date palms into their homes as a celebration of life over death.

Another legend of the Christmas tree states that St. Boniface, a 7th century monk, left his Devonshire home for Germany in order to teach the Word of God there. He used a fir tree to exhibit the traits of the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The people began to worship the tree as God’s tree.

Early Christmas trees were decorated with roses, apples, nuts, paper trinkets, and colored popcorn. Martin Luther, a religious leader who lived around 1500, is said to have been the first person to light a Christmas tree with candles. As Luther walked home on a dark winter night, he saw beautiful starlight shining through the branches of a fir tree. He recreated the light for his children by attaching candles to the branches of his Christmas tree.

The tradition of the Christmas tree quickly spread over all of Europe. Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, decorated the first Christmas tree at Windsor Castle in 1841. The tree was covered with candles, candies, fruits, and gingerbread. The popularity must have spread quickly; in the 1850s Charles Dickens mentioned trees decorated with dolls, jewelry, candy, and toys.

When German immigrants went to America they brought along their Christmas tree tradition. In the 1830s one of the first public Christmas trees was set up by German Settlers in Pennsylvania, but many Americans considered the tree to be a symbol of pagans. Church groups often asked that public trees be removed. It would be the late 1800s before Americans would start to accept the Christmas tree.

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