Christmas trees are synonymous with the festive season, but how did the use of evergreen trees during this time start and why do they hold such a special place in our homes each December?
The Christmas tree dates back as far as ancient Rome and Egypt with evergreen shrubs and trees having symbolic meaning in the lives of many ancient people. But the Christmas tree as we know it is a lot more recent than that
Germany and the Christmas Tree
Germany is believed to be the first country to embrace the Christmas tree tradition in the way that we recognise today. As far back as the 16th Century Christmas would bring decorated trees inside often with lit candles in their branches. The idea of fire and trees seems ludicrous if not dangerous to us today, but this is where it is believed the idea of fairy lights came from. It was a man named Martin Luther that saw the stars twinkling in the sky amongst evergreens on his walk home one night, this gave him the inspiration to do the same in his house. He brought a tree into his home and attached lit candles to its branches.
This joy at the sight of a Christmas tree was not shared by all however, it is reported that Oliver Cromwell believed such traditions to be heathens specifically Christmas carols and decorated trees. It is often believed that Queen Victoria was the first in the UK to really encompass the idea of a Christmas tree, but it was in fact when King George III was on the throne, his German wife Charlotte introduced the idea who decorated a tree for her family in the 1790s.
A Victorian Christmas
Whilst Christmas trees had already been introduced into the UK, it was certainly true that it was Queen Victoria and her husband Albert that made the traditions far more popular. They were both huge fans and it is because of this that many people believe that it was them that actually started the British traditions we see today.
To being with Christmas trees were much smaller and often placed them on tables but as imports started to arrive from Norway, they placed them on the floor with presents underneath, hence starting the incredibly popular practise that we still see in almost every home across the UK every December.
More Recent Christmas Trees
It was in 1947 that Norway gifted a tree to London to give thanks for helping them during World War II. This still happens today, with a special ceremony taking place in Norway during November to cut down a tree and bring it to London via sea and lorry.
Whilst the first artificial trees were made in Germany in the 19th Century, it was in the 1920’s when Woolworths started selling artificial trees to the British public, followed by Addis in the 1930s who made their trees using brushes, the same type that were also used in toilet brushes!
Since then, artificial trees have become more and more popular, decorated in tinsel, baubles, and fairy lights. Real trees are usually evergreen fir or pine timber with many now grown in the UK on sustainable timber farms, where each tree is replaced by at least one other once it is cut down.