The evergreen tree has become a traditional symbol for Christmas for thousands of years. From pagan to Roman to Christian traditions, the tree was a symbol of hope and life, symbolizing the wintertime that would pass and the springtime that would come again.
The earliest Christmas trees can be traced back to around the 16th century in Latvia where a tree was placed in the town square by a group of locals. They danced around the tree and set it on fire in celebration of the New Year. The idea to bring a Christmas tree indoors may be attributed to the German preacher Martin Luther, who is said to have found an evergreen tree so beautiful on a starry winter’s night that it reminded him of Jesus, “who left the stars of heaven to come to earth at Christmas.”
Decorations on Christmas trees began with edible things, such as cookies, apples, and bags of nuts. For those in the Christian tradition the tree was topped with a figure of baby Jesus, an angel, or a star to signify the bright light the wise men saw above the stable where Jesus was born. The tradition of putting tinsel on a tree comes from German or Polish folklore, where a spider covers the tree in cobwebs on Christmas Eve and on Christmas morning, the silky strands have been magically converted to silver and gold.
In the 19th century, popular royals Queen Victoria and Prince Albert set up a Christmas tree indoors and the family was captured in an illustration that was published in the London News. The drawing helped bolster tradition making it more fashionable than ever across the UK and even the US.
Christmas Tree Facts:
- The tallest artificial Christmas tree was 52m (170.6ft) high and was covered in green PVC leaves! It was called the 'Peace Tree' and was displayed in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 2001.
- In many countries, different trees are used as Christmas trees. In New Zealand a tree called the 'Pohutakawa' that has red flowers is sometimes used and in India, Banana or Mango trees are sometimes decorated.
- The record for the most Christmas trees chopped down in two minutes is 27 and belongs to Erin Lavoie from the USA. She set the record on Dec. 19, 2008.
- The record for the most lights lit at the same time on a Christmas tree is 194,672.
- One of the most famous Christmas trees is the tree in Trafalgar Square in London, England, which is given to the UK by Norway every year as a 'thank you' present for the help the UK gave Norway in World War II.