Christmas Trees

Christmas began as a midwinter festival, marking the turning of the seasons and (hopefully) the return of life to the earth. As such it's always been associated with nature and plants such as mistletoe. The custom of the Christmas tree clearly fits in with these old traditions - however it's actually a relatively new innovation.

History

The custom of decorating a tree for Christmas seems to have originated around the 16th century, probably in Germany. Some people believe that it was Martin Luther who started the tradition, however this seems a little strange given his position as leader of the Protestant reformation. Whoever first came up with the idea, it quickly became popular in Germany and spread throughout Europe.

In Britain, the Christmas tree only really started to become popular in the 19th century when Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert were pictured standing in front of a royally decorated Christmas tree. Anything that the queen did quickly became fashionable and the idea of the christmas tree soon became a fixture of Victorian England, spreading from there across much of the English speaking world.

Early trees were entirely natural, however the 1960s saw the introduction of the artificial Christmas tree.

Lights

It used to be common to decorate the Christmas tree with, amongst other things, candles. Clearly this was very dangerous and led to many fires - please don't even think about doing it.

Modern electrical tree lights are inexpensive to buy and far safer. They were first produced in the early 20th century following a serious fire in New York that was believed to have been caused by lighted candles setting fire to a tree.