Christmas Tree History


Zachary Gadams

The Christmas tree is a symbol of the holidays and a staple tradition in millions of households. The evergreen has become entwined with the concept of Christmas and has become commonplace in many cultures. The beginnings of this tradition can be traced back to ancient civilizations.

Prior to their function as Christmas trees, evergreen trees held significance as a symbol of prosperity in the Roman Empire, ancient Egypt, and ancient Celtic cultures, and the different facets of modern Christmas trees are all represented in some of these ancient traditions. The Romans decorated evergreen trees as a representation of good harvests to come, and the Egyptians used the evergreen tree as a religious symbol of the sun god Ra’s triumph over death.

The first use of evergreen trees as Christmas trees is credited to 16th century German Christians, who would decorate evergreen trees in their homes. The famous German protestant Martin Luther was the one who started the tradition of lights on the Christmas tree, adorning his with candles.

German settlers moved to America in hopes of prosperity and brought with them the Christmas tree. German settlements had community trees and were displayed in cities, but the trees were considered a pagan symbol by the English colonists. Christmas trees were outlawed until the 19th century when the large amount of German and Irish immigrants naturally weakened the hold Puritanism had on America. The tradition spread throughout America over the years and by the 20th century many Americans were decorating Christmas trees with confections and food. When electricity was invented food was swapped out for lights, and they became the Christmas trees you know to this day. Over time the Christmas tree has spread throughout South America, Europe, and Asia, and is observed differently by the many countries