Posts Tagged ‘Prince Albert’

Christmas Tree tradition is German

Monday, December 16th, 2013

Did you know that our Christmas tree tradition is German? The pagan custom dates back to the days before Christianity. As early as in the 16th century, people in Germany are said to have brought decorated trees into their homes. The Protestant reformer, Martin Luther, is credited with having added lighted candles. German immigrants eventually brought their tradition to the U.S. where the first recorded Christmas tree was displayed in Pennsylvania in the 1830s. But because of its pagan origin, most Americans did not adopt the tradition until the 20th century.

Beginning of the Tradition in Europe

Long before Christianity, plants and trees that stayed green all year had special meaning Europeans. People believed that the sun was a god and that winter came every year because the sun god had become sick. When plants greened again in spring and summer, they thought the sun god had recovered. To keep him healthy though out the year, people hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows. Others built pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens.

Puritans rally against the Christmas tree

New England’s Puritans tried hard to eradicate the old pagan tradition of decorating trees. Throughout the 18th century, they forbade any Christmas tradition that wasn’t a church service. But by the 19th century, the influx of German and Irish immigrants had weakened their efforts.

The Christmas Tree during Queen Victoria

In 1846, Queen Victoria of England, her German Prince, Albert, and their family were sketched in a London journal standing around a Christmas tree. Since the queen was immensely popular, Britain’s subjects as well as America’s East Coast Society imitated the custom.

The Christmas Tree Tradition came from Germany

Our Christmas Tree Tradition came from Germany


The American Christmas Tree Tradition

In the early 20th century, German-Americans continued to use apples, nuts, and marzipan cookies to decorate their trees. Americans used homemade ornaments. Soon popcorn, interlaced with berries and nuts, became fashionable. And after then arrival of electricity, lit Christmas trees appeared in town squares across the country. Today, the German Christmas Tree tradition has become an American tradition as well.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.