A Brief History of the Christmas Tree

Have you ever wondered about the roots of the Christmas tree as you’ve been decorating it? We all know about the main symbolism surrounding Christmas, but how often have you stopped and wondered about the tree?

In this article we’re going to look at some of the key events that have led to the tree becoming one of the first things we think about when we start to decorate for the Christmas period.

Most people today associate it with the resurgence of Christmas during the time of the Victorians, and with good reason too. However, the link between trees and decoration goes back thousands of years before that.

It’s known that the ancient Egyptians used to decorate their homes with leaves from the palm tree, and this also became a tradition that the Romans would continue, but they’d use the conifer rather than the palm tree.

It was a 7th century Devonshire monk that linked the triangular shape of the tree with certain religious aspects, when he was teaching in Germany. It was from Germany that, ironically, the Christmas tree made its way back to Britain, and, in the 1840’s became a symbol of Christmas for both royalty and the common man.

In those early years many odd things happen to the Christmas tree. One of the more surprising was the people of the 12th century hanging them upside down from the ceiling.

One of the first decorations to appear was the candle. It is said to have been used in Riga in 1510 to represent the twinkle of the stars in the night’s sky. The variety of decorations flourished in the 16th century.

The common theme of these early decorations was the fact that they tended to reflect the wintery weather outside. From the early 1600’s, through to the middle of the 1900’s, a tinsel-like decoration was used that was made of real silver, and was supposed to represent snow.

The popularity of the tree in Britain really took off when Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and the family were portrayed around a Christmas tree in the 1846 “Illustrated London News”. Both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were of German ancestry, so the tree was already part of their Christmas tradition.

Most of the decorations around this time were expensive, and, seeing as the majority of people couldn’t afford to decorate their whole house, they would take the cheaper option of decorating a tree.

In 1747, the well travelled Germans took the Christmas tree to America. Then, as travel improved in the early to mid part of the 1800’s, the Christmas tree found its way from the German settlers in Pennsylvania, to all parts of the country.

Soon the invention of the electric light followed, and it wasn’t too long before it became one of the stars of the decorations.

In the 1920’s we saw the invention of the feather Christmas tree. In the 1930’s the Brush bristles arrived. The 1950’s had the aluminium tree, and, with developments in PVC, we eventually saw the rise of the plastic Christmas tree.

There we have it; a brief history of the Christmas tree.

The tradition of trees and decoration has come a long way since the time of the ancient Egyptians; so why not take a few minutes to think about its roots the next time you’re putting up your Christmas tree?

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