Why are Christmas trees a holiday tradition?

Amanda Kelley, Photographer

Around the first weekend of December everyone starts putting up their Christmas trees. There are tons of different ones; some people buy plastic ones, some people buy flocked ones, and some people buy real ones such as the local favorite, Douglas fir. Once people put the tree in their house, they hang shiny ornaments, lights and a tree topper on it. But why does everyone put giant trees in their home for Christmas? And where did this tradition start? 

According to BBC News, many people believe this tradition started in Britain with the Victorians somewhere between 1837 and 1901. The queen and her husband loved Christmas and were very adamant about their celebrations. However, the tradition is actually about 50-100 years older than that. The tradition actually originated from Germany. Although Queen Victoria did not start this tradition, it is believed that she made the tradition extremely popular. 

The tradition was started with very small trees that would be put on the table. Eventually, people found out you could get much larger trees from Norway, so the trees moved to the ground and became the perfect spot for Christmas presents. But why do people use fir trees? Well, nobody wants to have a tree in their house with leaves falling on the ground or with bare branches. So, naturally, evergreen trees were chosen because they stay green and vibrant all year. 

Christmas trees started as a way to emulate the “paradise tree” which is a fir tree hung with apples to represent the Garden of Eden. The Germans set up their trees on December 24th, much later than people do today. They would then hang wafers on the tree to represent the Christian symbol of redemption. As the tradition grew, people replaced the wafers with various cookies so that the tree looked more decorative. People would also add candles as a symbol of Christ. Families also would have a “Christmas pyramid.” This was a small triangle built from wood with shelves to hold Christmas figurines. They decorated it with evergreen branches, candles, and a star on top. Eventually the “paradise tree” and the “Christmas pyramid” merged into one and became what we know of as today’s Christmas tree.

No matter what kind of tree people get, or how they decorate it, it is always fun to set up and decorate with lights and fancy or homemade ornaments. In unpredictable times like these, it is nice to know that some big Christmas traditions are still safe and fun to do with no restrictions.