Holiday traditions vary from family to family, but the Christmas tree has been a long-standing symbol in American culture. Of course, that wasn’t always the case. Most of the first settlers would have thought it was strange to have an evergreen tree inside! There are a lot of different stories surrounding this history, though a few things are for certain. For one, today it doesn’t matter what kind of tree you decorate in your home. Whether you’re loyal to live pine trees or you keep things easy with a decorative faux tree, the story of Christmas tree history is pretty interesting when you take a closer look.
Origins of the Tradition
Decorating homes with evergreen boughs has been customary since ancient times. From the early Romans using evergreens to Ancient Egyptians hanging green palms, the symbol has long held meaning for various cultures. Families would often celebrate the winter solstice with this type of greenery. Hanging boughs in the home and around entryways was meant to be an inspiring reminder that spring and summer would return once again. Although wintertime greenery was popular in many areas around the world, the country with the biggest role in the tree as we know it today is Germany. Known as the Tannenbaum, the Christmas tree story for Germans typically dates back to the 16th century. It was during that time that Christian families started associating the decorative trees with the birth of Christ.
Coming to America
From Germany, the Christmas tree was eventually brought to America. Though it did take some time to catch on. Some accounts suggest that German settlers in Pennsylvania had a tree on display in the 1830s. Another story also dates to the mid-1830s. But in that version, the tree was set up by a Harvard professor in his Cambridge, Massachusetts home. Both sound likely enough since the tradition was common in Germany. The rest of the nation just needed a little more inspiration before adopting the tradition as their own.
Fast forward to 1846. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are often credited with popularizing the Christmas tree to those outside of Germany. The spark was pretty straightforward. Because Albert was German, the royal family posed for a sketch in front of a decorated tree at Windsor Castle. That image was later published in the Illustrated London News. As the news spread, it helped popularize the tradition both in Britain and in the fashion-forward society in New England.
As time progressed, another trend started to emerge. While Europeans preferred having a Christmas tree that was smaller (around 4 feet tall), Americans tended to like trees that were bigger. By the 1890s, it wasn’t unheard of to have trees that stretched all the way to the ceiling. It’s a decorating style that we still see today! Size does vary according to personal taste from home to home, but the bottom line is that the Christmas tree enjoys near universal popularity. Almost every home (and some businesses too) in America will have a Christmas tree this year.
As you tend to your Christmas tree inside, don’t forget to peak at your blue spruce, pine, and fir trees outside. If you start to have problems with your outdoor trees, be sure to give Ping’s Tree Service a call at 317-298-8482. Our crew would be happy to consult with you on any tree issues you might notice. With our residential tree care services, your trees can remain healthy and beautiful all year long—even through winter.