The Traditional Christmas Tree

The Traditional Christmas Tree

Fact versus fiction in the origin of the Christmas tree


Christmas tree questions give rise to many legends, some of which are unfounded. There are many tales about the origin of the Christmas tree including claims that the first Christmas tree was introduced by Martin Luther and that the tradition was borrowed from Pagans.

Laura Legend says these truly are legends and presents the facts known about the Christmas tree…

Most scholars agree that the Christmas tree originated in Germany in the early 1500s. Literature from that era speaks of decorated fir trees being set up in parlors throughout Germany during the Christmas season.


Initially, people would decorate a Christmas tree, but not with lights, tinsel and Christmas bulbs as we see today. Rather, Christmas trees were adorned with gold-colored decorations and foil along with fruit, sweets, and such.

The Christmas tree became widely recognized in the German culture in the 1700s and the custom spread throughout Europe. Most likely, the tradition of the Christmas tree was brought to North America by German immigrants.

Eventually, using candles as lights on a Christmas tree become customary and the candles were later put in lanterns or glass bulbs. Electric Christmas tree lights were not introduced until the 1800s when Edward Johnson, an associate of Thomas Edison’s, used electric Christmas lights to decorate a Christmas tree at his home in New York City.



Legend holds that in the German custom surrounding the Christmas tree the tree was called the tree of Paradise and was a symbol of the Garden of Eden.

In the 1800s Charles Dickens wrote a short story titled, “A Christmas Tree”, in which he depicted the Christmas tree, the “German toy”, as being adorned with brilliant lights, and glittering objects such as miniature furniture, dolls and other hand-made objects.

Factoid: Charles Dickens was an English novelist who made many contributions to classic literature including the fictional story, “A Christmas Carol” and the short story, “A Christmas Tree”. He was also the author of “Oliver Twist”.

Many cultures have adopted Merry Christmas decorating themes and Christmas celebrations centered on the Christmas tree.