The Christmas Tree Tradition
When setting up your tree this holiday season give thought to how we ever started the tradition. By understanding the history of the Christmas tree, we may then fully appreciate why this staple of Christmas decorum has become so universal.
Egyptian cultures may have been the first to worship evergreens, bringing palm leaves into their homes during the winter solstice as a symbol of life. The Romans, the Druids and the Germans through the Middle Ages celebrated the winter solstice in much the same manner. In fact, German settles are responsible for the introduction of the tradition in the United States in the early 1800s. The traditional size was tabletop and decorated with apples, but those trees were quickly replaced with floor-to-ceiling trees.
The Christmas tradition in the United States experienced steady growth at first. Many Puritans banned Christmas, as it was a pagan holiday. Over time, Christmas became more widely celebrated and tree decorating rose in popularity. In 1851, a farmer named Mark Carr hauled a shipment of evergreens to New York City and sold all of them. Two years later Franklin Pierce brought the Christmas tree to the White House. By the new century the tradition had spread to one in five American homes. Two decades later the tradition was nearly universal and continued to thrive.
The Great Depression of the 1930s launched the Christmas tree market to new heights. Nurserymen who were struggling to sell their harvested trees for landscaping decided to sell their evergreens at Christmas time. Franklin D. Roosevelt was skeptical of the Christmas tree tradition for fear of deforestation, but agreed to develop the evergreen harvest into Christmas tree farms. These cultivated trees were desired over wild ones because of their symmetrical shape.
By the 21st century approximately 25-30 million Christmas Trees are sold each year in the United States alone. The majority of these trees come from tree farms across the country. Scotch pines take the crown for most popular tree with about 40 percent of the tree trade; Douglas Firs are close behind with 35 percent of the market. Other common trees are the noble fir, white pine, balsam fir and white spruce.