Holidays and Celebrations

How Did Evergreen Trees Become A Christmas Symbol?

Early Americans with strong Christian beliefs denounced Christmas trees, calling them a pagan symbol.

How Did Evergreen Trees Become A Christmas Symbol?
Yorgos Karahalis / AP
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Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, where did you come from? 

The family of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation has an idea — "you see kids this is what our forefathers did, walked down into the woods and picked out that special tree with their bare hands." 

Okay, so maybe that’s part of the truth? But, before Christmas, there was winter solstice. During winter solstice, Ancient Egyptians and Romans would adorn their homes with branches from evergreen trees, admiring the trees ability to keep its green hue all year-round.  

To ancient people, winter solstice was a chance for the so-called "Sun God" to rest.  

And the boughs of evergreens reminded them that all the green plants would grow again when the Sun God was strong. 

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But, Christmas trees as we know them, began in 16th century Germany, when devout Christians brought dressed evergreen trees into their homes. And when early German settlers eventually landed in Pennsylvania, the tree tradition came with them. 

Initially, it didn’t go over well on new soil. 

Early Americans with strong Christian beliefs denounced Christmas trees, calling it a pagan symbol. 

But in the late 19th century popular German royals, Queen Victoria and her German Prince Albert were sketched in the illustrated London news with their family around a tree.   

The popular royal family set the trend with newly settled east coast American society and a new American tradition was born.  

Now, whether it’s a pine, spruce, or fir, when winter solstice is near, an evergreen tree isn't far behind. 

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