It really feels like the holidays have begun the moment we put up the tree. Don’t get me wrong. Other decorations are great. But, there’s something extra special about the tree that makes the holidays come alive. I bet it’s that way in your house too. So, I got to wonder, how did this wonderful holiday traditional begin…
History of the Christmas Tree
It turns out that long before even Christianity, evergreen plants and trees had special meaning for people in the winter. Just like we do today, ancient peoples hung boughs of evergreen over door-ways and across windows. They believed that evergreens would keep witches, evil spirits and even illness away.
Then, by the 1400’s countries like Estonia, Latvia and Germany began decorating trees during the holidays, often with sweets and fruit. Over the course of the next couple of centuries, tree decorating was embraced by most of Christian Europe. The first recorded Christmas tree in North America was a fir tree 1781 in what is now known as Quebec City.
Queen Victoria is credited with bringing the Christmas tree to the UK around 1841. Unlike Europe, where Christmas trees were part of village and rural celebrations, in Britain trees were reserved for the very wealthy.
In the US, the first record of a tree on display was in the 1830’s by German settlers in Pennsylvania. By the early 20th Century Americans were decorating their trees with homemade ornaments. Later, popcorn was introduced, along with berries and nuts.
Introduction of Lights
Today, we don’t put lit candles trees. But, in 1882 that was the norm until the first known electrical illuminated tree was put in the residence of one Edward H. Johnson. Mr. Johnson was the Vice President of the Edison Electric Light Company! In his day, Mr. Johnson became known as the “Father of Electric Christmas Tree Lights” and we have never looked back. The humble Christmas tree would never be the same.