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Christmas Tree: History and Meaning


The Christmas tree, symbolizing vitality and unwavering spirit, has roots tracing back to medieval German mystery plays. Its evergreen branches, representing enduring life, have reached across various cultures, becoming a beloved emblem of holiday celebrations worldwide. 

This article invites you on a journey to explore the origin, meaning, and intriguing facts about the Christmas tree, revealing how it has embedded itself into U.S. holiday traditions and connected generations with stories of yuletide joy and unity. Let's delve into the fascinating history and discover how the Christmas tree has flourished into a cherished global icon.

History of Christmas Tree

Originating in the Renaissance period of early modern Germany, the Christmas tree has become a cherished symbol in today’s festive celebrations. The 16th-century origins sometimes link to Protestant Christian reformer Martin Luther, who, according to stories, first decorated an evergreen tree with lighted candles. Luther aimed to illustrate the idea of Christ as the world's light to his family in a visual and memorable way. 

This tradition has blossomed over the centuries, and now, the Xmas tree illuminates homes worldwide, standing as a global emblem of the holiday season, and spreading joy and unity across nations and generations.

How did Xmas trees become popular in the U.S.?

It took ups and downs for the Christmas tree to become a cherished tradition in the U.S. In the 19th century, the Christmas tree was considered an oddity and a pagan symbol by most Americans. Although German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania had been displaying Xmas trees in their homes since 1830, this tradition was not widely accepted by other Americans.

In 1846, the Xmas tree started to emerge as a trend in America. This sudden trend was sparked by an event when the London News illustrated the royal family of Queen Victoria and her German Prince standing around a Christmas tree. Not only in London but also in East Coast American society, Xmas trees started to be perceived as fashionable.

The 1890s witnessed the rising popularity of the Christmas tree in the U.S., especially when Americans showed their excitement for the arrival of Christmas ornaments from Germany all across the country. 

In the early 20th century, Xmas trees were already ubiquitous during the Christmas holiday in America. Americans began adorning their evergreen trees with homemade ornaments. The invention of electricity further enhanced the Christmas tree's appeal as it brought illumination. With this gorgeous and sparkling look, Americans started placing Xmas trees in town squares all around the country. That's when Xmas tree decoration became a tradition in the U.S.

What is Christmas tree Symbolism and representation?

“In Christianity, the Christmas tree stands for Jesus Christ's birth and coming back to life. The tree's branches show how life goes on forever, like the way Christians believe in eternal life through Jesus. It's like a reminder of the crown of thorns Jesus wore on the cross, showing that even in hard times, there's hope and everlasting love.

In different religions and cultures, the Xmas tree holds different meaning. 

For the Greeks, the Xmas tree is a sacred symbol of the Greek God of vegetation, Attis. They set up a well-dressed Xmas tree to make offerings to the deities. Meanwhile, Roman culture perceives evergreen trees as a symbol of the sun. Their tradition of decorating Christmas trees is to honor Saturn during the festival of Saturnalia. 

The Teutonic (Celtic) people embellish their Xmas trees with gold torches and jewelry to express respect for the deities and ensure a good harvest.

Regardless of the cultural diversity as the origin of the Xmas tree, a modern Xmas tree symbolizes some typical meanings of a beloved holiday, such as eternal life, the spirit of giving and receiving, and gratitude for nature and life.

Moreover, whatever you hang on your festive Xmas tree also holds its own meaning. For instance, the lights on the evergreen may symbolize the light of God's spirit or the love of family. Traditional tree toppers, such as stars or angels, may have deep meanings related to the birth of Jesus.

👉 Watch more: Capturing the Spirit of Christmas: Festive Traditions and Joyful Celebrations.

What are the customs and traditions of Christmas Tree?

Xmas tree setting up and taking down

Setting up and taking down the Christmas tree is a meaningful tradition during the Christmas holiday, and there are different beliefs regarding when to observe this tradition. 

Back in the Victorian period, people believed that the Christmas tree should be put up on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, which is much later in December compared to the present tradition. In other cultures, Xmas trees are traditionally put up on Advent Sunday, an important date in the Christian calendar. Accordingly, Advent takes place before Christmas to celebrate Jesus's birth, and the Xmas tree must be put up at the beginning of Advent.

The tradition of taking down a Xmas tree is also different based on the region. In some Christian countries, the festive fir is traditionally taken down on the last day of Christmastide's twelve days, while others do the same thing on Candlemas, which marks the end of the extended Christmas Epiphany season.

Christmas tree decorating

Embracing the festive spirit, Xmas tree decorating becomes a cherished custom in homes during the holiday season. Each decoration, twinkling in the cozy ambiance, carries its own unique meaning and story. The act of adorning the Xmas tree not only infuses the home with a jubilant Christmas atmosphere but also weaves a tapestry of unity, bringing families together in a joyful collective activity. 

Among the myriad of decorations, Christmas ornaments hold a special place on the tree. Crafted from a diverse array of materials such as ceramic, wood, acrylic, metal, and glass, these Christmas tree decorations add a personal and creative touch, making every tree uniquely heartwarming and splendid.

👉 Watch more: Unveiling the Ideal Time: When to Take Your Christmas Tree Decorations Up

What are Christmas Tree Trivia and Facts?

Number of Christmas trees planted in a year

In Europe, the demand for natural Christmas trees is estimated at about 50 million per year. Central and Western Europe are where the leading producers of natural Xmas trees are found. In 2018, Germany took the 1st position by producing 18 million natural Xmas trees annually, followed by Denmark with 10 million trees, and France with 6 million trees.

Meanwhile, in North America, there are more than 20,000 tree growers who cultivate about 73 million new Xmas trees each year. The United States, the northeast region of Canada, and the Pacific Northwest are the three main regions for growing Xmas trees.

Quantity and selling price of 1 Christmas tree

According to Nielsen Research (2011), U.S. households purchased approximately 12.9 million artificial trees and 21.6 million real trees. Nielsen Research also found that a real tree costs an average of $46, while an artificial one costs an average of $78.

These are some other facts of the Christmas tree:

  • All 50 states in North America and Canada are growing real Xmas trees. The U.S. 
  • Commerce Department stated that China contributes to 80 percent of total artificial trees produced worldwide each year. 
  • Real Xmas trees are a renewable resource while artificial ones are non-biodegradable due to being made of toxic plastic and metal. 
  • The United States has operated more than 4,000 local Xmas tree recycling programs.

The Final thoughts

Unifury has just taken you through an amazing history, meaning, and some facts about the Xmas tree. It's mind-blowing to discover that even Christmas decorations have their hidden stories, isn't it? Regardless of the different symbolizations of the Xmas tree, it remains an irreplaceable element that warms up the Christmas holiday. Now, in addition to desiring a perfect Xmas tree, you also need to balance environmental concerns. Let's start dressing up the most sustainable Christmas tree ever!

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👉 Transform Your Home with Christmas Tree Ornaments and Decorations

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