The holiday season is upon us, and whether or not you celebrate Christmas, you likely will be around a few Christmas trees in the coming weeks. While today it may seem ordinary and commonplace to bring a tree inside and decorate it during this time of year, the tradition didn’t always exist. So, where exactly did the Christmas tree come from? Let’s take a brief look at the history of this tradition.
While not directly related to the tradition of the Christmas tree, trees and winter have always had a special connection in many cultures throughout the world. Even before Christianity, people placed evergreen boughs around their homes during the winter in an effort to ward off evil spirits, notes History.com. In Egypt, specifically, people honored the sun god Ra during the winter solstice by placing green palm rushes around their homes.
Of course, these practices don’t directly tie into the Christmas tree, but we can see where it may have had some origins. The Christmas tree’s history can be more closely tied to a tradition in 16th-century Germany. During this time, Christians first started decorating trees and displaying them in their homes. Most people attribute the idea of lighting trees to the Protestant reformer Martin Luther during this era. One night he witnessed stars shining behind a line of evergreen trees, giving him the idea to place candles in the branches to create a similar effect.
The Christmas tree didn’t come to America, however, until the mid-19th century. The earliest reports indicate that German settlers in Pennsylvania carried the tradition with them from their homeland. Oddly enough, many people in America viewed the tree as a symbol of paganism, which may be why it took a while for the tradition to catch on.
By the end of the 19th century, people were importing Christmas ornaments from Germany and selling them in America, which helped make the tradition more popular. Today, the Christmas tree is commonplace throughout the United States, with trees being displayed in homes and in public arenas alike.
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