History of the Christmas Tree

By Ashley Chapmen

In History
Nov 25th, 2015

Germany has earned the credit of starting the tradition of a Christmas tree as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians bought decorated trees into their homes. There were some people that built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles when the wood was scarce. It is believed that Martin Luther, a 16th century Protestant reformer, was the first to add lighted candles to the tree. It was said that one night walking on his way home, he was composing a sermon, and was in awe by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. He ran home and recaptured the scene for his family by placing a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles.

Most Americans in the 19th century found Christmas trees an oddity. The first ever record of a Christmas tree being displayed was in the 1830s by the German settlers of Pennsylvania; however, trees had been a tradition in the German homes much earlier than the 1830s, as late as the 1840s the Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols and was yet to be accepted by most Americans. Just like many other festive Christmas customers, the was not adopted into America until much later in history. The New England Puritans, Christmas was sacred. William Bradford, the pilgrims second governor, wrote that he had tried hard to stamp out “pagan mockery” of the observance and penalized any frivolity. Oliver Cromwell an influential person preach highly against “the heathen traditions” of Christmas carols, decorated trees, and any joyful express that desecrated”that sacred event”.

The General Court of Massachusetts in 1659, enacted a law making any observance on the day of December 25, a penal office other than church service. People would be fined for hanging decorations. That stern solemnity continued up until the 19th century, when the influx of German and Irish immigrants undermined the Puritan legacy. Popular Royals, Queen Victoria and her German Prince, Albert, were sketched in an illustrated London News standing with their children around a Christmas tree in 1846. Due to Queen Victoria’s popularity what was done at the court immediately became fashionable all over Britain and across the East Coast into American Society. It was not long that Christmas trees arrived everywhere.

Christmas ornaments were arriving from Germany and Christmas tree popularity was on the across the U.S. in the 1890s. It was said that Europeans used small four foot trees, while Americans like their Christmas trees to be massive reaching floor to ceiling. By the early 20th century Americans decorated their trees with homemade ornaments, while the German-American used apples, nuts, and marzipan cookies. Popcorn later joined in after being dyed bright colors and interlaced with berries and nuts. Once electricity was discovered, it brought along Christmas lights making it possible for Christmas trees to glow for days on end. After that Christmas trees began to spring up in town squares across the country and Christmas trees in every home became an American tradition.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree History

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree dates back as far as the Depression Era days. The tallest tree displayed at Rockefeller Center was in 1948, a Norway Spruce that measured 100 feet tall hailed from Killingsworth, Connecticut. The first tree to ever be placed at Rockefeller Center was in 1931. It was a small unadorned tree placed there by construction workers at the center of the construction site. It was not until two years later that another tree was placed this time with lights. Now days, the giant Rockefeller Center tree is covered in over 25,000 Christmas lights and thousands of people flock to New York Times Square to get a peak at the glorious tree.

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