Have you ever wonder why do we decorate the Christmas tree? Who was first to create this tradition, and what is the story behind it? The story of Christmas trees goes back to ancient Egypt and Rome, but there are also some stories from Germany.
We will tell you a story about the path that Christmas tree tradition had, traveling from the ancient times to this day.
Let’s find out more about the history of the Christmas tree.
The Beginnings of the Christmas Tree Tradition in Ancient Times
The first story about Christmas tree tradition refers to ancient Egypt. As the story says Egyptians worshipped a god called Ra, who wore the sun as a blazing disk in his crown. When Ra began to recover from his illness the Egyptians filled their homes with green palm rushes, as a symbol for the triumph of life over death.
The next story comes from ancient Rome, where ancient Romans prepared a big feast called Saturnalia in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. In order to mark that occasion, Romans decorated their homes and temples with evergreen boughs. This was the first time that evergreen trees are mentioned in such a way.
Although, Egyptians and Romans were pagans they were first to use any kind of tree for celebrating and honor their gods and their important holidays. This was just a base for Christian traditions we all know today.
The Vikings and Evergreen Boughs Decoration
The priests of the ancient Celts, mysterious Druids who lived in Northern Europe, also decorated their temples with evergreen boughs, because it symbolized everlasting life. In Northern Europe, in Scandinavia, lived the fierce Vikings who thought that evergreen trees were the special plants of Balder, the god of the sun.
Among these pagan Europeans, tree worship was common, and it even survived their conversion to Christianity. In Scandinavia customs associated with decorating the house with evergreens at New Year to scare away the devil, actually sounds similar to the costumes we have these days.
The Christmas Tree Customs born in Germany
The Christmas tree tradition we know today is born in Germany in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some people built Christmas wooden pyramids and decorated them with candles and evergreen trees.
The part of the Christmas tree tradition is associated with Martin Luther, 16th-century Protestant reformer. There is a belief that he was first to add lighted candles to a tree. As the story says, one winter evening, Martin Luther walking toward his home, composing a sermon, he was stunned by the splendor and brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreen trees.
Wanting to recapture the scene for his loved ones, he brought a tree in the main room and decorated its branches with lighted candles, that’s how he created sight he was amazed by. He was followed by many Christians, and that’s how the tradition continued.
The Christmas Tree Tradition in America
It seems like the first one who brought Christmas tree were German settlers of Pennsylvania. The first record of the Christmas tree being on display was in the 1830s by them. The German settlements of Pennsylvania made the community Christmas tree as early as 1747.
Until the 1840s decorated Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols, and they weren’t accepted by most Americans. Like many other customs and traditions, the Christmas tree was adopted later in America.
Religion got in the way of accepting this tradition. For example, to the New England Puritans, Christmas was sacred. So on, Oliver Cromwell preached against the tradition of Christmas carols, decorated trees, and any kind of joyful expression that desecrated “ sacred Christmas”.
There is an information that back in 1659, the people of Massachusetts were fined for hanging decoration on the Christmas tree. As we said, that stern solemnity continued until the 19th century, when the German and Irish immigrants undermined the Puritans.
The early 20th century saw Americans decorating their Christmas trees mainly with homemade ornaments, while the German tradition was decoration with apples, nuts and marzipan cookies, this was an old German custom. With electricity came the Christmas lights, which gave a whole new shine to a beautifully decorated Christmas tree.
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