History of the Christmas Tree
The Beginning of the Christmas Tree
The first recorded reference to the Christmas tree dates back to 16th century Germany. The tree, used as a symbol of life, is a tradition older than Christianity and not exclusive to any one tradition.
It is said that a young priest, who later became Saint Boniface, went to Northern Germany in the eighth century to convert the people there. When he arrived he found them worshipping a huge oak tree because they believed there was a god within it, and they were preparing to sacrifice their young prince Olaf to the god. He stopped the sacrifice, chopped down the tree, and while living with them for a number of years, converted them to Christianity.
One day, as he was riding through the forest where he had chopped down the big oak tree, was a beautiful evergreen tree. Because it stayed green all year round (it was ''ever-living") and its top pointed toward Heaven, he called it the Christ-tree.
Many years later, in the 16th century, Martin Luther brought an evergreen tree into the church to celebrate Jesus' birthday. Because the service was called the Christ Mass, the tree became known as the Christmas tree. He was the first to put decorations on the tree - candles, and he told the people that the candle light should remind them of the star of Bethlehem that led the three wise men to the stable where Jesus was born.
Christmas Tree in the US
The tradition of the Christmas tree was brought to the US by German settlers and Hessian soldiers paid to fight in the American Revolutionary War.
In 1804, US soldiers station at Fort Dearborn (now Chicago) hauled trees from the surrounding woods to their barracks at Christmas.
In 1842, Charles Minnegrode introduced the custom of decorating trees in Williamsburg, Virginia.
In 1851, Mark Carr hauled two ox sleds loaded with trees from the Catskill mountains to the streets of New York, and opened the first retail lot in the US.
Franklin Pierce, our 14th president, brought the Christmas tree tradition to the White House. President Calvin Coolidge started the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in 1923.
Since 1966, the winner of NCTA's (National Christmas Tree Association) "Most Perfect Christmas Tree Contest" has presented a beautiful, fresh Christmas tree to the President and First Family. The White House Christmas tree is displayed in the Blue Room of the White House each year.
Christmas trees were first commerically grown in Texas in 1977.