The evolution of the Christmas tree

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The Christmas tree is one of the most common decorations placed in stores and shown in homes during the holiday season. The tradition of keeping a Christmas tree has evolved over hundreds of years. In fact, this symbol of Christmas was not always as popular in America as it is today.
The National Christmas Tree Association observed that the type of tree most commonly used as a Christmas tree are evergreens, according to realchristmastrees.org. Traditionally, people believed that evergreen trees kept away evil spirits. Their bright green color also served to remind people, during the long winters that growth and warmth would return in spring, according to history.com. As a result, people began decorating their homes with branches from these trees during the holiday season.

The royal family Queen Victoria and Prince Albert popularized the Christmas tree tradition.
Courtesy of history.com

According to history.com, the Egyptians, Romans, and Vikings were the first to use tree branches as decorations. After this tradition began, the Germans became the first to place Christmas trees into their homes.
Once German Christians introduced this new way of decorating, the tradition continued to evolve. In the 16th century, Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther added lighted candles to his tree, which today takes the form of string lights. His inspiration for the candles came from a midnight walk, during which he looked to the sky and saw the stars shining among the branches of the evergreen trees. In an attempt to recreate this same effect at home, he added candles to the Christmas tree, according to history.com.  
In the beginning of the 1800s, many Americans saw the Christmas tree as tacky, while in other countries people quickly began to integrate Christmas trees into their homes. However, the tradition gained popularity in the United States when British rulers Queen Victoria and Prince Albert released a drawing of their family around a Christmas tree during the holidays. The drawing encouraged other people to adopt this new trend, according to history.com.
Sacred Heart displays an artificial Christmas tree in the lobby of the Nancy Salisbury, RSCJ Hall.
Katherine Santoro ’19

By the end of the 1800s, Christmas trees with decorations were widely popular in both Europe and the Americas, according to history.com
Today, Christmas trees continue to evolve as people face the decision to decorate a real or artificial tree. Artificial trees can be an easy option for those who do not want to care for a living tree, or those living in a smaller space such as an apartment. In the United States, 80 percent of Americans will place artificial trees into their homes while the other 20 percent will purchase real trees, according to christmastreeassociation.org.
Although the majority of Americans prefer the convenience of an artificial evergreen, many believe there is nothing quite like having a real tree in their home for the holidays.
“One of my favorite Christmas traditions is going out to pick out a tree with my family,” junior Ellarie Talgo said. “Picking and decorating the tree is something we always do together and has become a real and meaningful symbol of the holiday season.”
– Katherine Santoro, Staff Writer