Oh Christmas Tree!
Evergreen trees have been an important religious symbol around the world for millennia.
The trees and their branches were used in Nordic Yule and Roman Saturnalia celebrations.
Evergreens were seen as a sign of good luck and a symbol of life itself. During this particular time in winter, Vikings, and Romans honored their Gods with feasting and religious rituals.
Other similar traditions were seen across Europe but the German custom is considered to be the originator of the modern tradition which was later Christianized.
The earliest references to such trees are from the 16th century. There is a legend that Martin Luther was the first to put candles on a tree. The apocryphal tale slowed the spread of the customer to Catholic regions. However, the inter-marriage of European royalty spread the custom to the nobility of many other countries. A large number of German immigrants to North America popularised the tradition in the New World.
Over the course of the 19th century, the lower classes began to erect their own trees. Photographs in magazines accelerated the process when in the 20th century, the image of the tree was used in advertising and entertainment cementing its place in Christmas celebrations.
Large Christmas Trees in prominent public spaces began in the early 20th century. There is a custom of cities gifting trees to other communities is common. Several Norwegian cities send trees as a sign of gratitude and friendship - Oslo sends a tree to Washington, D.C. as a thank you for the assistance received in the Second World War. For many years the city also sent one to Reykjavík in a gesture of friendship. Local trees are now used but are still referred to as the “Oslo Tree.”
Christmas trees have become almost universal among Christians but timelines and decorations vary widely. Some erect the tree at the beginning of Advent or a secular holiday around that time such as American Thanksgiving, while others do it on Christmas Eve.
The Christmas Tree is a beloved part of the Holiday Season and has always been a popular subject for photographers. Historical archives were filled with unique prints that portrayed the holidays, and many are now available on our website! START YOUR SEARCH!