Christmas Tree History Timeline
Egyptians – The ancient Egyptians were known to use plants in their religious ceremonies. In Egypt, the evergreen date palm was a sacred tree, and a palm branch was the symbol of the god Heh, the personification of eternity.
In many Pagan beliefs the tree was considered magical, it’s roots extended beneath the earth was a great mystery. Many Pagans believed that the Gods transformed themselves into trees. Pagans were known to cut down trees, carve or decorate them in the form of a god or goddess, overlay it with precious metals and bring them into a house or temple.
1800 BC: The Celts – The Bronze and Iron Age Celts believed that the first human beings were descended from trees. Trees were revered such as the oak and started the tradition of burning the Yule Log. The Celts believed trees to be sources of sacred wisdom and associated with wisdom by the Druids.
1110 BC: The Greeks – According to ancient tradition the first Greek temples were originally trees, and later made of trees – their columns resemble tree trunks. The later stone temples were associated with a ‘holy tree’. In several Greek myths, women and men are frequently transformed into trees.
The Book of Genesis in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible makes mention of two trees – the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil grow at the center of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9)
626 BC: The Prophet Jeremiah condemned as Pagan the ancient Middle Eastern practice of cutting down trees, bringing them into the home and decorating them.
509 BC: The Roman Empire and the tradition of the Roman pagan holiday of Saturnalia was also observed near the winter solstice. It is the belief of many that the 25th December was chosen in order to substitute the joy of a Christian festival for the license of the Pagan Saturnalia which were kept during this season. The Pagan winter festivals of the Romans were connected with agricultural life.
1 AD: The birth of Jesus Christ and the start of Christianity.
In an old list of Roman bishops, compiled in A. D. 354 these words appear for A.D. 336: “25 Dec.: natus Christus in Betleem Judeae.” December 25th, Christ born in Bethlehem, Judea. This day, December 25, 336, is the first recorded celebration of Christmas. Christianity.com
650: Age of the Vikings and the Saxons – The German Saxons and the Vikings, worshipped their god Thor and the name Yule derives from the Norse words “Yul” or “Jul”. Their rituals were included in the ceremonies of other pagan religions. Pagan ceremonies and customs included the use of evergreen boughs, an adaptation of pagan tree worship.
723: St Boniface – The Christmas tree’s origin is possibly related to Thor’s Oak. This ancient tree was sacred to the Germanic pagans. Boniface was an English monk who went to Germany to convert pagans to Christianity. According to tradition Thor’s Oak was chopped down by Boniface. As the oak fell a young fir tree appeared – the tree of life representing Jesus Christ. When this happened Boniface declared the the fir tree growing in its roots to be a new symbol of Christianity
1415: The Paradise Tree – Mystery Plays featuring the Paradise Tree were staged. The main prop of a popular medieval play about Adam and Eve was a “paradise tree,” a fir tree hung with apples, that represented the Garden of Eden. The play that was held every December 24, which was Adam and Eve’s Day. This was the real origin of the modern day Christmas Trees.
1510: The location of this first recorded Christmas tree erected was in the Town Hall Square in Riga in Latvia to celebrate the New Year.
The first recorded tree referred to as a Christmas tree was erected in the Cathedral of Strasbourg, Alsace.
1561: The Forest Ordinance of Ammerschweier, a German speaking region of Alsace, stated “No burgher shall have for Christmas more than one bush of more than eight shoes length,” indicating that Christmas Trees were being put into homes.
1570: German Guilds decorated trees with fruits, nuts and other treats for the children of guild members. Christmas markets were established in Germany.
1605: The custom of Christmas trees had been established as a feature in German family homes. In 1605 an unknown Strasburg citizen wrote “At Christmas, they set up fir-trees in the parlours at Strasburg and hang thereon roses cut out of many-coloured paper, apples, wafers, gold-foil and sweets…”
1610: Christmas Tree Tinsel was invented in Germany.
1789: Christmas trees were being used to decorate homes in England a tradition started by the Georgian German Kings.
1821: The Pennsylvania Dutch are believed to have introduced the Christmas tree to America
1841: Prince Albert, the German prince who married Queen Victoria set up the first tree at Windsor Castle – this custom soon became all the rage in fashionable, wealthy households. The Christmas tree was popularised in France when Princess Helene of Mecklenburg brought it to Paris. Small candles were attached to the branches of the Christmas tree providing a magical atmosphere in people’s own houses.
1847: Christmas tree balls and baubles were originally made of glass and invented in the small German town of Lauscha and were soon mass produced.
1848: Commercially cut trees were first sold in America from the Philadelphia markets.
A massive Christmas tree was present at the Crystal Palace Exhibition in London due to the idea from Prince Albert and this increased its popularity worldwide.
1856: A Christmas tree was erected at the White House, Washington, D.C. and was decorated by Franklin Pierce.
1895: U.S. President Grover Cleveland sponsored the first electrically lit Christmas tree in the White House.
1870: The first American made glass ornaments and baubles were created by William DeMuth in New York in 1870.
1880: Woolworth’s sold inexpensive, commercially produced Christmas Tree decorations which made them affordable to everyone.
1882: Edward H. Johnson, the vice president of the Edison Electric Light Company, had red, white and blue electric incandescent light bulbs wired to his tree.
1930: Electric tree lights became less expensive and were widely in the 1930’s.
1950: The idea of decorating outside Christmas trees was adopted in the 1950’s. As technology moved on LED lights were introduced together with fibre optic lights and light sculptures!
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