Home > Christmas Traditions
A Christmas tree, Holiday tree, Yule tree or Tannenbaum (in
German) is normally an evergreen coniferous tree that is brought into a
home or used in the open, and is decorated with Christmas lights and
colourful ornaments during the days around Christmas. An angel or star is
often placed at the top of the tree called a tree-topper, representing the
host of angels or the Star of Bethlehem from the Nativity story.
There are several origin tales connected with the Christmas
1. The tradition of Christmas tree comes from Germany where
in 1570, a small fir tree was decorated with apples, nuts, dates, pretzels
and paper flowers, and erected in the guild-house, for the benefit of the
guild members' children, who collected the dainties on Christmas day.
2. In Basel, tailor apprentices carried around town a tree
decorated with apples and cheese in 1597.
3. In the 1500s, Martin Luther is said to have
decorated a small tree in house to symbolize the way the stars shined at
How the tradition spread
In the early 19th century, the custom became popular among
the nobility and spread to royal courts as far as Russia. Princess
Henrietta of Nassau-Weilburg introduced the Christmas tree to Vienna in
1816, and the custom spread across Austria in the following years. In
France, the first Christmas tree was introduced in 1840 by the duchess of
The Queen's Christmas tree at Osborne House. The engraving
republished in Godey's Lady's Book, Philadelphia, December 1850In Britain,
the Christmas tree was introduced by King George III's German Queen
Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz but did not spread much beyond the royal
family. After the marriage of Queen Victoria to her German cousin, Prince
Albert, the custom became even more widespread.
Christmas Trees in United States
Several cities in the United States lay claim to that
country's first Christmas tree. Windsor Locks, Connecticut, claims that a
Hessian soldier put up a Christmas tree in 1777 while imprisoned at the
Noden-Reed House, thus making it the home of the first Christmas tree in
New England. The "First Christmas Tree in America" is also claimed by
Easton, Pennsylvania, where German settlers purportedly erected a
Christmas tree in 1816. In his diary, Matthew Zahm of Lancaster,
Pennsylvania, recorded the use of a Christmas tree in 1821 -- leading
Lancaster to also lay claim to the first Christmas Tree in America.
Decorating the Christmas Tree
August Imgard, a German immigrant living in Wooster, Ohio,
is the first to popularise the practice of decorating a tree. In 1847,
Imgard cut a blue spruce tree from a woods outside town, had the Wooster
village tinsmith construct a star, and placed the tree in his house,
decorating it with paper ornaments and candy canes. The National
Confectioners' Association officially recognises Imgard as the first ever
to put candy canes on a Christmas tree; the canes were all-white, with no
red stripes. Imgard is buried in the Wooster Cemetery, and every year, a
large pine tree above his grave is lit with Christmas lights.