In the Know: The American Tradition of Christmas Trees

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15th December, 2015 Comments are closed

In the Know: The American Tradition of Christmas Trees

In the Know: The American Tradition of Christmas Trees

Christmas trees have many special meanings and it is believed that evergreen tree branches were used long before the advent of Christianity to decorate homes during the winter solstice to remind people of the spring to come. In the 16th century in Germany, devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. It is believed that Martin Luther first added lighted candles to a tree to symbolize the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens.
In 19th-century America, most people found the Christmas tree to be an oddity. The first trees were seen in German settlements of Pennsylvania in the 1830s. Prior to that Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols and not accepted by most Americans.Before the influx of German immigrants to America, New England Puritans considered Christmas sacred and therefor, ridiculed pagan symbology and “heathen traditions”. In fact, in 1659, Massachusetts enacted a law which fined those displaying Christmas decorations. Eventually, as Germans and Irish immigrated into America in the 19th century, their traditions undermined the Puritan legacy.
By the 1890s, Christmas ornaments were arriving from Germany to the U.S. and Christmas tree popularity was on the rise. Europeans preferred small trees about four feet in height, while Americans preferred Christmas trees to reach from floor to ceiling. The eventual introduction of electricity and Christmas lighting made the decorated trees even more popular. Soon town squares across the country featured Christmas trees and having a tree in the home became an American tradition.