This is why we decorate Christmas trees - and where the tradition started

Tuesday, 15th December 2020, 12:12 pm
Updated Tuesday, 15th December 2020, 12:12 pm

Decorating your Christmas tree might be the biggest mark of getting into the festive spirit.

Whether you pick your tree from a pine tree patch or shop online for a fibre optic tree, no house is complete without one.

But why do we bring trees into our homes, drape them in lights and tinsel and stick a star on top? This is where the tradition began.

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When were Christmas trees first introduced?

Christmas trees were first decorated during the 16th century in Germany.

Due to a shortage of wood in the winter, people would bring evergreen trees into their homes or stack piles of wood in a pyramid shape, before decorating with pines and candles - as a reminder of the spring to come.

Leading Protestant reformer, Martin Luther, was thought to be the first to add candles to his tree.

Legend suggests that he loved the stars twinkling through the evergreens in winter and decided to remake the scene for his family.

He brought a tree into the main room of his house and decorated it by tying lit candles to it.

Germans are then thought to have replicated his idea in their homes, around Christmas time.

How did it become a global tradition?

In the early 1800s Christmas trees were seen as a pagan symbol and not used by American Puritans and Christians.

German settlers in Pennsylvania were the first to showcase their German tree tradition in 1835, but the tree was not adopted into tradition in the UK and America until over a decade later.

Queen Victoria is thought to have had a significant impact on the appearance of Christmas trees in the UK.

In 1846, she was pictured around a Christmas tree with her husband and some of her children, by the Illustrated London News.

This is thought to be the year in which the global phenomenon began, as Victoria was a popular monarch in the UK and east-coast America - including New York.

What are the most famous Christmas trees?

Today, cities around the world acknowledge the festive period by decorating their squares and tourist attractions with trees and lights.

Here are a few of the most recognised Christmas trees:

Rockefeller Center, New York

You can visit the Rockefeller tree at Rockefeller Plaza, one of New York’s most visited tourist attractions.

The city is a hot spot for Christmas fanatics and the tree tops off the decorations around the city, including light shows at Macy’s and ice skating at the Rockefeller Centre.

Galeries Lafayette, Paris

Galeries Lafayette is a swanky department store, similar to Macy’s in the United States. The decorations on the Parisian Galeries Lafayette Christmas tree are an annual tourist attraction, with people from all over France also travelling to see it. Each hour on the run up to Christmas, visitors can watch an epic light display.

Manger Square, Bethlehem

Believed to be the birthplace of Jesus, the town of Bethlehem is not the easiest to get to but attracts waves of visitors every year.

The Church of the Nativity has a tree that stands 15 meters high in Manger Square, and is accompanied by stunning illuminations.

Trafalgar Square, London

The Trafalgar Square Christmas tree is highly celebrated by Brits and tourists alike.

Since 1947, Norway has provided a tree for Britain as a special thanks for help provided during the Second World War. The tree is decorated in traditional Norwegian style.

Red Square, Moscow

With the famous Kremlin in the background, the Christmas scenes in Russia are some of the most colourful in the world.