The History of Christmas Trees
In Germany, the first Christmas Trees were decorated with edible things, such as gingerbread and gold covered apples. Then glass makers made special small ornaments similar to some of the decorations used today. In 1605 an unknown German wrote: “At Christmas they set up fir trees in the parlours of Strasbourg and hang thereon roses cut out of many-coloured paper, apples, wafers, gold foil, sweets, etc.”
At first, a figure of the Baby Jesus was put on the top of the tree. Over time it changed to an angel/fairy that told the shepherds about Jesus, or a star like the Wise men saw.
The first Christmas Trees came to Britain sometime in the 1830s. They became very popular in 1841, when Prince Albert (Queen Victoria’s German husband) had a Christmas Tree set up in Windsor Castle. In 1848, drawing of “The Queen’s Christmas tree at Windsor Castle” was published in the Illustrated London News, 1848. The drawing was republished in Godey’s Lady’s Book, Philadelphia in December 1850 (but they removed the Queen’s crown and Prince Albert’s moustache to make it look ‘American’!).
The publication of the drawing helped Christmas Trees become popular in the UK and USA.
In Victorian times, the tree would have been decorated with candles to represent stars. In many parts of Europe, candles are still widely used to decorate Christmas trees.
Tinsel was also created in Germany, were it was originally made from thin strips of beaten silver. But when plastic/man made tinsel was invented it became very popular as it was much cheaper than real silver and also lighter to go on the tree!
One legend says that the Christ Child first made tinsel by turning spider’s webs into silver after taking pity on a poor family that couldn’t afford any decorations for their Christmas Tree!
Because of the danger of fire, in 1895 Ralph Morris, an American telephonist, invented the first electric Christmas lights, similar to the ones we use today.
In 1885 a hospital in Chicago burned down because of candles on a Christmas Tree! And in 1908 insurance companies in the USA tried to get a law made that would ban candles from being used on Christmas Trees because of the many fires they had caused! So we have to say a big thank you to Ralph Morris for making Christmas safer!