Whether you use colored bulbs or decorate all in white, Christmas lights bring a smile to everyone (maybe even Scrooge). You may be asking yourself where exactly did the holiday light tradition start? In the northern hemisphere the winter solstice – the longest and shortest day of the year falls on December 21st this year. Back in the day many people believed the sun was a god and winter came because the sun god had become sick and weak. They celebrated the solstice because it meant that the sun god was beginning to feel better. Evergreen boughs reminded them that plants would grow again when the sun god was strong.
Germany gets the credit for starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it and it is believed that Martin Luther first added candles in the 16th century because he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst the evergreens and to re-create this beauty he put up a tree in the main room of his house and wired the branches with lighted candles.
The first record of a lit Christmas tree was in the 1830’s by German settlers in Pennsylvania. Most Americans at this time looked at the trees as Pagan symbols and in 1659 Massachusetts enacted a law making any observance of December 25th, other than church services a penal offense where you were fined for hanging decorations. This continued until the 19th century when the influx or German and Irish immigrants undermined the puritan legacy.
In the early 20th century with the advent of electricity, (Edison’s assistants came up with the idea of electric lights for trees) Christmas lights became popular and lit trees began to appear in town squares (the Rockefellar Center tree dates back to 1933) and having a tree in your home became an American tradition.
Did you know:
- In the first week, a tree in your home with consume as much as a quart of water per day.
- Tinsel was once banned by the government because it contained lead…now it is made of plastic.
- Franklin Pierce, the 14th president brought the Christmas tree tradition to the White House.
- More than a million acres of land have been planted with Christmas trees.