The weird reason we have Christmas trees

Lifestyle Team
·3-min read

A beautifully decorated Christmas tree is basically the centrepiece for most homes over the festive season.

Indeed, for some people, it is impossible to truly get into the holiday spirit until they’ve put up their evergreen and adorned it with lights, ornaments and other accessories, and never has this been more true than in 2020 when anything and everything that can raise our spirits has become all-important.

A beautifully decorated Christmas tree is seen as the centrepiece for most homes over the festive season. Photo: Getty
A beautifully decorated Christmas tree is seen as the centrepiece for most homes over the festive season. Photo: Getty

But have you ever wondered why and how decorated evergreen trees became such a big part of Christmas celebrations?

They may have pride of place in 2020, but the tradition actually stretches back to ancient times.

The first people to decorate their homes with evergreen trees during a celebration were actually the Egyptians.

When Winter solstice came around, they would decorate their temples and home with the trees and wreaths because the plant represented everlasting life, peace and opulence.

While the various other civilisations such as the Vikings and the Druids, also used to bring the plant indoors as a celebration of life.

The link to Christianity

But it was in the 16th century when German theologian and priest Martin Luther is credited for creating the link between the Christmas tree and Christianity.

Various civilisations such as the Vikings, Egyptians and the Druids, also used to bring the evergreen indoors as a celebration of life. Photo: Getty
Various civilisations such as the Vikings, Egyptians and the Druids, also used to bring the evergreen indoors as a celebration of life. Photo: Getty

According to History.com, German Christians started to build pyramids of wood and decorated them with candles and evergreens to celebrate the birth of Jesus. But it was Martin who brought the sparkling trees indoors and used wire and candles to decorate it.

While it became popular in Germany, the practice was frowned upon by the likes of 18-19th century Americans who felt it was odd and represented paganism.

The Prince Albert effect

But then everything changed when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert popularised the classic decorated Christmas tree and made it fashionable in the 1840s.

The prince – who was German – was adamant that the tradition was part of his life in England. And thankfully, Queen Victoria was already used to the tradition as well because her mother was German.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert popularised the classic decorated Christmas tree and made it fashionable in the 1840s. Photo: Getty
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert popularised the classic decorated Christmas tree and made it fashionable in the 1840s. Photo: Getty

Then a drawing of the Royal Family celebrating around a Christmas tree in Windsor was published in 1848 and the people all over the world were keen to replicate the look.

Plus Prince Albert also sent decorated Christmas trees to schools in Windsor and to local army barracks.

The global spread

At first, people were just putting small trees on their dining table, but as it became easier to get bigger trees from Norway things changed.

People began to buy large trees and cover them in homemade decorations while putting small presents underneath – like we still do today!

Plus, the inventions of electricity and the ease in which we can make and ship both trees and decorations meant it was easy for the tradition to make it’s way into any home across the globe.

Words by Nola Ojomu

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