ancient Egyptians worshipped a god called Ra, who had the head of a hawk and wore the sun as a blazing disk in his crown. At the solstice, when Ra began to recover from his illness, the Egyptians filled their homes with green palm rushes, which symbolised for them the triumph of life over death.
Romans marked the solstice with a feast called Saturnalia in honour of Saturn, the god of agriculture. The Romans knew that the solstice meant that soon, farms and orchards would be green and fruitful once again. To mark the occasion, they decorated their homes and temples with evergreen boughs.
In Northern Europe the mysterious Druids, the priests of the ancient
Celts, also decorated their temples with evergreen boughs as a symbol of everlasting life. The fierce Vikings in Scandinavia thought that evergreens were the special plant of the sun god, Balder. O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum
Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce. It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking towards his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles.
A Christmas tree for German soldiers in a temporary hospital in 1871
The custom was widespread among the German Lutherans by the 18th century, but it was not until the following century that the Christmas tree became a deep-rooted German tradition. Introduced into England in the early 19th century, the Christmas tree was popularized in the mid-19th century by German-born Prince Albert , husband of Queen Victoria . The Victorian tree was decorated with toys and small gifts, candles, candies, popcorn strings, and fancy cakes hung from the branches by ribbons and by paper chains.
The 1848 engraving of the royal family decorating a tree.
They were also popular in Austria, Switzerland, Poland, and the Netherlands. In China and Japan, Christmas trees, introduced by Western missionaries in the 19th and 20th centuries, were decorated with intricate paper designs.
Taken to North America by German settlers as early as the 17th century, Christmas trees were the height of fashion by the 19th century. The early 20th century saw Americans decorating their trees mainly with homemade ornaments, while the German-American sect continued to use apples, nuts, and marzipan cookies. Popcorn joined in after being dyed bright colours and interlaced with berries and nuts. Electricity brought about Christmas lights, making it possible for Christmas trees to glow for days on end. With this, Christmas trees began to appear in town squares across the country and having a Christmas tree in the home became an American tradition.
Rockefeller Center tree is located at Rockefeller Center, west of Fifth Avenue from 47th through 51st Streets in New York City.
The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree dates back to the
Depression era. The tallest tree displayed at Rockefeller Center arrived in 1948. It was a Norway Spruce that measured 100 feet tall and hailed from Killingworth, Connecticut.
The first tree at Rockefeller Center was placed in 1931. It was a small unadorned tree placed by construction workers at the centre of the construction site. Two years later, another tree was placed there, this time with lights. These days, the giant Rockefeller Center tree is laden with over 25,000 Christmas lights.
1931 - First Christmas tree on the grounds, put up by construction workers
And fast forward a few decades, and here we are with our modern Christmas trees. Did you know that 74% of the world's population celebrating Christmas prefer a fake tree over the remaining 26% who prefer a real one. And last, but not least, we spend an average of £155.42 each year on our Christmas tree and decorations. There are of course ways to celebrate Christmas with aplomb without harming your wallet as well as the planet - read more
HISTORY. 2009. History of Christmas Trees . [online]
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Christmas tree". Encyclopaedia Britannica, 4 Jun. 2021