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The Christmas tree has become such an integral part of the way we celebrate this important holiday. Whether you prefer a live or artificial tree, white or colored twinkle lights, glass ornaments, or handmade, you probably have traditionally put up and decorated a tree with your family and loved ones in the days leading up to December 25th. But when did this tradition begin and why? The history of the Christmas tree actually dates all the way back to ancient Egypt and Rome and continues with the German tradition of candle-lit Christmas trees which made their way to America back in the 1800s.

All the Way from Germany

Our holiday tradition of tree trimming can be credited to the Germans, as in the 16th century, devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. It’s also a widely held belief that it was Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, who was the first one to add candles to a tree, inspired by a late-night walk and the brilliance of the stars blinking among the evergreen trees. To recreate this beauty for his family, he affixed lighted candles to a tree in the main room of his home. In the early 20th century, Americans started to adopt this tradition, decorating their own trees with mainly homemade ornaments, while the German-Americans continued to use items like apples, nuts, and marzipan. Of course, electricity brought Christmas lights that could remain aglow for long periods of time, and with this, Christmas trees began to pop up in town squares across the country.

Rockefeller Center Tree

The official lighting of this iconic Christmas tree began in 1933 and has continued ever since. The tallest ever Christmas tree displayed at Rockefeller Center arrived in 1948, and it was a Norway Spruce measuring 100 feet tall. Nowadays, his iconic Christmas tree is generally decorated with more than 25,000 Christmas lights, and each year, millions of people make it a mission to lay eyes on this incredible holiday display in New York City. Every Christmas tree, no matter how grandiose or humble, serves to help us usher in the spirit of the season, and decorating them has become a beautiful tradition for many Americans.