By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 8 December 2015)
The roots of Christmas tree decoration can be found in the Celtic practice of bringing greenery indoors during midwinter celebrations. However, the modern Christmas tree, which was originally decorated with apples, nuts, and strips of red paper, originated in Germany during the seventeenth century, and the practice likely arose as a way of brightening the gloomy midwinter days. The French added lit candles to Christmas trees during the 1700s, a precursor to the strings of electric lights used to decorate modern Christmas trees.
German immigrants brought the practice of Christmas tree decorating to North America in the 1800s, and during this era, additional ornaments were introduced, including glass balls, chains, figures, and toys.
In the 1900s, Christmas tree farms arose to supply the increasing demand while preventing the destruction of forests. Today, in the United States alone, up to 30 million real Christmas trees are sold annually, and the majority come from tree farms. Some people think that it is better for the environment to buy an artificial Christmas tree, but an environmental impact analysis found that real trees purchased from tree farms are actually the more eco-friendly choice.
For more on the history of Christmas traditions and symbols, as well as gift and food ideas for the holiday season, see the main Christmas page.