Christmas Tree History evergreen, usually a balsam or douglas fir, decorated with lights

and ornaments as a part of Christmas festivities. The use of

evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands as a symbol of eternal life was  

an ancient custom of the Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. Tree

worship, common among the pagan Europeans, survived after their

conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating

the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away

the devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmastime,

it survived further in the custom, also observed in Germany, of placing

a Yule tree at an entrance or inside the house in the midwinter holidays.

The modern Christmas tree, though, originated in western Germany.

The main prop of a popular medieval play about Adam and Eve was

a fir tree hung with apples (paradise tree) representing the Garden of

Eden. The Germans set up a paradise tree in their homes on

December 24,  the religious feast day of Adam and Eve. They hung

wafers on it  (symbolizing the host, the Christian sign of redemption),

in a later tradition, the wafers were replaced by cookies of various

shapes. Candles, too, were often added as the symbol of Christ.

In the same room, during the Christmas season, was the Christmas

pyramid, a triangular construction of wood, with shelves to hold

Christmas figurines, decorated with evergreens, candles, and a star.

By the 16th century, the Christmas pyramid and paradise tree

had merged, becoming the Christmas tree.

The custom was widespread among the German Lutherans by the

18th century, but it was not until the following century that the

Christmas tree became a deep-rooted German tradition. Introduced into

England in the early 19th century, the Christmas tree was popularized

in the  mid-19th century by the German Prince Albert, husband

of Queen  Victoria. The Victorian tree was decorated with candles,

candies, and fancy cakes hung from the branches by ribbon and

by paper chains. Brought to North America by German settlers as

early as the 17th century,

Christmas trees were the height of fashion by the 19th century.

They were also popular in Austria, Switzerland, Poland, and

The Netherlands. In China and Japan, Christmas trees,

introduced by western missionaries in the 19th and 20th centuries,

were decorated with intricate paper designs.

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