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The History of the Christmas Tree

By Lindsay 23 December 2022

For many British families, decorating the Christmas tree often marks the beginning of the festive season. But what is this tradition all about? Where did the custom begin? And how British is it really?

Ancient Traditions

The Christmas tree has become synonymous with the festive period, but this tradition began way before the advent of Christianity. Ancient cultures including the Romans, Pagans, Vikings and Ancient Egyptians were all heavily reliant on agriculture. Their legends varied, but they all hosted some sort of festival in the middle of winter; the return of the sun and flourishing crops was a common theme, and a clear cause for celebration. At their mid-winter celebrations, these ancient civilisations would bring evergreen plants into their homes as a symbol of new life and the prosperity that would eventually return to the land.

Germanic Roots

The custom of decorating the home with evergreen branches eventually transitioned into the tradition of the Christmas tree. Germany is credited as the first country to have illuminated modern Christmas trees, a practice that has been dated back as far as the 16th century. Originally, these trees were decorated with lit candles which are thought to have represented the stars in the night’s sky.

In the UK, Christmas trees really took off during the reign of Queen Victoria. She herself was of German descent on her mother’s side, and her husband, Prince Albert, was born and raised there. In 1846, the royals were depicted in the Illustrated London News standing around a decorated Christmas tree with their children. The couple were very popular, and so anything they did was quickly adopted by the general public. It only took a couple of years for the Christmas tree to become a firm staple in the UK, with the tradition also spreading to the United States via the East Coast American Society.

The Modern Christmas Tree

Today, the Christmas tree has taken many different forms. Whether it’s as the towering spruce in Trafalgar Square, or on a much smaller scale in our own homes, traditional cut trees are still a firm favourite. But it’s also great to get inventive; whether you opt for an artificial version, choose a fake snow affair, or go for your own artistic interpretation, we feel fairly confident that most of you have something tree related in your home!

Whatever your Christmas traditions, we hope you have a wonderful break and start the new year feeling rested and refreshed.

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