Why Do People Have Christmas Trees?

Evergreen plants have been important to people during the winter for millennia, but the Christmas tree tradition dates back to 16th century Germany when Christians would bring trees inside and decorate them. One tradition involves Protestant reformer Martin Luther as the first to put lighted candles on a Christmas tree.

Putting up and decorating Christmas trees remains a popular custom today. In the 1800s, Americans found the trees peculiar, as Puritan beliefs about the holiday saw the trees as a pagan observation. It is true that decorative fir trees in the winter date back to ancient Rome, long before the birth of Christ, and so the Puritans had established a law in Massachusetts making any Christmas observance on December 25 other than attending church a crime.

This changed when Great Britain's Queen Victoria posed with her family around a Christmas tree in 1846 for a sketch in the London News. This made its way to American society on the East Coast, which emulated many trends from Great Britain, paving the way for more widespread acceptance of the Christmas tree in the United States. The advent of electricity allowed Christmas lights on trees without the danger of candles, and the brightly lit trees remain popular in 2015.