Why Do We Have Christmas Trees?

Why Do We Have Christmas Trees?

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Have you ever thought to yourself, “Why do we have a Christmas tree every year during the holiday season?” I understand that not everyone has a Christmas tree or even celebrates Christmas.

I’ve done a little reading and want to share in today’s post what I learned about celebrating Christmas and the tradition of having a Christmas tree.

Why Do We Have Christmas Trees?

Since celebrating Christmas has been a tradition for most of us all our lives, I think we tend to take for granted the celebration has been around for many centuries. The truth is, from a historical perspective, Christmas celebrations are relatively new, particularly in the United States.

Of course, having a Christmas tree is only one of many traditions that come with the annual celebrations. But more about that in a minute.

Long before Jesus was born, people throughout the world celebrated the changes in seasons as the different solstice periods came and went. Even during the cold winter months, people in various European countries celebrated the lights of winter. They also celebrated the births of family members and farm animals. People looked forward to the prospect of a new beginning with spring just around the corner.

Scandinavian Countries

As a matter of fact, in the Scandinavian countries, and particularly in what would become Norway, they celebrated what they called Yule in late December. They looked forward to longer daylight periods as the sun made its appearance for longer periods each day.

Here in the US, Christmas had a shaky start as people debated the appropriateness of a celebration for the birth of Jesus. They didn’t want even the hint of any Pagan influence or rituals in their Puritan communities. It wasn’t until June of 1870 that Christmas was formally declared as a national holiday.

Evergreen Foliage

As for the use of “evergreen” foliage to commemorate important events or times of the year, even before Christianity was an established religious following, people celebrated the winter solstice by hanging evergreen boughs over windows and doors.

They thought the plants that stayed green all year long were strong enough to fight off witches, evil spirits, ghosts, and even illness.

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The evergreens were also a family of plants that reminded people that the sun would again make a return. Sunshine makes it possible for all plants to grow and usher in a new season and worth celebrating.

History tells us that ancient Egyptians, early Romans, and the Druids of Northern Europe each had Gods they worshipped who endearred evergreens. These plants seemed to be held in high regard as signs of fruitful lives, even everlasting life.

They often would bring various types of evergreens into their humble homes to remind them of what their Gods had done for them during the year.

German Families

It was the Germans as a group of devout Christian believers who would decorate these boughs or trees and bring them into their homes as a sign of devotion to the Christ child.

Some believe that Martin Luther was one of the first to add candles to the trees. Many settlers in Pennsylvania during the early 1800s were immigrants from Germany. They brought with them their traditional tree decorating during the holidays.

Not that that tradition carried over to other locations at first. The New England Puritans felt that bringing a tree into the home as part of the Christmas celebrations was a pagan mockery of Christmas.

An early leader in the New England area, William Bradford, did all he could to have anything that appeared to detract from a worshipful approach. He felt other spiritual things should be used to honor the birth of the Christ child.

The late 1800s into the 1900s

By the late 1800s and into the early 1900s the popularity of what we call Christmas trees was spreading throughout the US and its settlements. Most decorations were homemade “do-it-yourself” ornaments. That incorporated the use of cookies, nuts, apples, and other common items found around the farm-base communities. Some of those traditions continue today.

I quote, History of Christmas Trees, “Modern Tannenbaum (Christmas trees) are traditionally decorated in secret with lights, tinsel, and ornaments by parents and then lit and revealed on Christmas Eve with cookies, nuts, and gifts under its branches.”

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When I was younger, we always had a freshly cut Christmas tree, and we had to fill the green tree stand tray with water and hope the dog wouldn’t drink it.

I’m not sure when artificial trees came about, but I remember my family had a silver artificial one with colored lights that would change color every few minutes.

Many of us have thought the Christmas tree was based on a Christian foundation. The truth is, long before any religious influence, people had trees and plants that stayed green all year, hence, the word evergreen and all the related decorations.

Why Do We Have Christmas Trees?

Some of you may know, that Mark and I sold our home in Southern Utah, and we will be living with our daughter (this is her Christmas Tree) until our home is built.

My mother made this ceramic tree for me back in 1976. I have gifted it to my daughter, Heidi, and it will be passed on to her daughter, Mekall. I love heirloom things like this, don’t you?

Why Do We Have Christmas Trees?

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. We used to put out a lot of decorations and even got a permit to cut down a fresh tree from time to time.

The whole process of making ornaments with our kids was a real blessing over the years. With our new home, we’ll have to see how much decorating can be done.

Part of the joy of Christmas is the time we share with family and friends. That sharing includes delicious meals and appetizers that can be enjoyed. That’s why I’ve made it a point to put together a bunch of posts the past couple of weeks that included recipes for a variety of cheese balls and dips.

My Christmas Appetizers

Final Word

I hope you enjoyed my post today about why we have Christmas trees. I want to thank all of you for following me and commenting. I’m so grateful for all of you and consider my readers some of my most precious friends. May all of you enjoy a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year! May God Bless this world, Linda

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18 Comments

  1. Merry Christmas–and a wonderful New Year!

    With two young kitties in our house, I finally opted to put nothing more than lights on our tree (and the Black Lab angel on top). No ornaments or tinsel. I set up just the actual tree (artificial) a few days early, and when I was there to yell NO the kitties were quite good. But before I could pat myself on the back–two mornings ago I found several bent branches, indicating probably nocturnal exploration!

    1. My 11 week old kitten thinks the only purpose of the Christmas Tree was for him to climb and play in. We have an artificial tree with built in likes and like you, we added no ornaments or garland to the tree. Maybe next year.

      Between the kitten and the grandchild (only 9 months old this year), I think our Christmas tree will look different for several years to come. My collection of blown glass ornaments will stay in the storage box. Also left off the tree will be the porcelin oranments that my sister made me years ago. Next year, while presents will be under the tree, they will be surrounded by Christman themed stuffed animals to hopfully distract the cat and the toddler. Truthfully I’d rather have the cat and the toddler over a Christmas tree.

      1. Hi Topaz, aww, I love the statement, “Truthfully I’d rather have the cat and the toddler over a Christmas tree.” Our pets and grandkids are more important, you are so right! Linda

  2. Linda:

    Martin Luther was the first one to put lights on the tree. He was out one night before Christmas and he saw the stars twinkling in and around the tree’s outside and he decided to put candles on the tree to show that Jesus is the light of the world. He prayed that the lights on the Christmas Tree would lead those who did not believe in Jesus as Savior to accept Jesus as their Savior.

    I loved your article and I pray that you had a wonderful Christmas and will have a wonderful New Year.

  3. I love the ceramic tree!! My mother-in-law made one for my husband and me when we were newlyweds! Now my daughter has it (I think!).

    I have a really tiny artificial tree. I’ve been using an artificial tree for a long time as the cost of a real tree and the disposal of it was such a pain. My first artificial tree cost about $30 (way back in the 80s) and lasted for about 22 years when I downsized it. Now I have a 3′ tree that has the lights already attached!! Easy. Of course, I also had to get all new decorations to fit that 3′ tree!

    For me, the thing that I enjoy the most during this time of year is the gift giving. I now have friends who are dairy free and I searched out dairy free candies to make (I am not a cookie baker but I do love to make candy this time of year). I hope they enjoy the candies. But I really do enjoy finding things I know that my family would love and can use.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, Linda and Mark. And to all your readers.
    Leanne

    1. Hi Leanne, oh the ceramic tree, they are so fun! I will be getting a small artificial tree for the house once it gets done. I LOVE homemade gifts! Everyone loves homemade candy! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family as well! Linda

      1. I haven’t had a real chance of making homemade gifts this year since my craft room is still pretty chaotic!! My daughter loves making homemade gifts and candy. She is also a baker and loves making cookies – at least I think she does (didn’t get that trait from me, however!!!).

        1. Hi Leanne, oh it’s so fun you live closer to your daughter and her family. What a blessing. All my stuff is still in a storage unit (climate controlled) almost 2-1/2 years now. I’m getting cranky, just a little. LOL! I can’t even remember what I have now. Just a few more months until the house is done, hopefully. Patience is not one of my virtues! LOL! Let her do the baking, that sounds wonderful! Linda

  4. My son and I were able to go to the Christmas markets in Europe this year. In Selestat France on the border of Germany in the Alsace region they have St Georges church which is home to the first written mention of the Christmas tree in 1521. The trees were hung from the knave and decorated with apples representing the first sin and Adam & Eve.

    I hope this link works to a photo:
    https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https%3A%2F%2Fi0.wp.com%2Fbest-of-upper-rhine.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2012%2F12%2Fnoel2012_selestat_sapincollerettespapier.jpg%3Fresize%3D490%252C325&tbnid=uxYDEDPWT-HFMM&vet=12ahUKEwiOyvS9haaDAxVXOUQIHWplDKUQMygAegQIARBO..i&imgrefurl=https%3A%2F%2Fbest-of-upper-rhine.com%2Fselestat-alsace-real-history-of-the-christmas-tree%2F&docid=rWpw3m5PP3mNgM&w=490&h=325&q=Selestat%20France%20christmas%20tree&client=safari&ved=2ahUKEwiOyvS9haaDAxVXOUQIHWplDKUQMygAegQIARBO

  5. Linda:

    I know I am late replying to this but long covid kept me in bed or my recliner over Christmas. We always had a cut tree when I was a child until the doctor told my parents they should not have a real tree because I was allergic to them. Upset my siblings but what could I do. We have a tree we bought when we moved into the house we have now but now we decorate it with ornaments of things those who are with our Savior liked when they were here. It makes us feel a little like they are still here.

    1. Hi Jackie, I’m so sorry you are still suffering from long Covid, my sweet friend. I love fresh trees but I don’t like the sap that drips. We have had an artificial tree for years. I gave mine to my granddaughter when we moved. When our house gets done we will buy a smaller one. I love Christmas trees with lights, I smile every time when I walk in the room. Life is good! Linda

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