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The Christmas Tree Is Not An American Original

Of all the people that celebrate Christmas, few know anything about the history of Christmas trees and why people have them as part of their Christmas décor.  The Christmas tree did not originate as an American custom. The idea of setting up a Christmas tree as part of the décor began in the early 1500s in Germany. However, the practice was not received very well at the start of this practice.

It was not until the end of the 1800s that a tree was used in significant numbers in many areas of Germany to celebrate the Christmas holidays. At the beginning of the 1900s overseas, the wealthy and the royalty began setting up Christmas trees, and that was the starting point, the birth of the Christmas tree tradition.

Immigrants Brought the Tree to the New World

When the first immigrants left their country to settled in the New World, many of them also brought the tradition of setting up evergreens in their home, and they decorated smaller trees outside of their homes as well. They adorned the trees with treasures provide by nature.

However, here in the United States, the Christmas tree took more time to become mainstream. Many people believed that the Christmas tree was a Christian symbol. However,  Christians were not open to the suggestion of having a tree as the focus of their celebration of Jesus’ birth.

The Christmas tree was looked upon with suspicion. Religious people viewed the tree as a symbol of paganism, even though that was not correct. As such, many Christians refused to have anything to do with Christmas trees. But, over time, the custom slowly caught on.

The First Christmas Tree in the White House

When the promotion of Christmas trees began in the late 1800s in the United States, the idea caught the attention of President Benjamin Harrison. He ordered the first Christmas tree to be set up in the White House in 1889. It was decorated with toys, candles, and various ornaments to impress Harrison’s grandchildren.

There were public displays of Christmas trees, trimmed with beautiful decorations that had the public in awe.  By the end of the 1800s, a well-known department store saw an opportunity to fill a need for artificial trees and started offering them for sale.

A Time to Set Up the Christmas Tree

In several countries, Winter Solstice (December 20-23) preceded the time for setting up the Christmas tree, close to the arrival of Christmas day. The beginning of January was slated as the time to remove the tree and all of the decorations.

In modern times, the Christmas tree is traditionally set up just after the Thanksgi

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ving holiday. However, some families set it much up sooner. Taking the tree down is still done during the early part of January, usually the first week. Yet, many families wait until right after New Years Day.

A Time to Take Down the Christmas Tree

There is an old wives’ tale that states what you’re doing on January 1; you’ll do for the entire year. Because the taking down of the tree is hard work, people believed that by taking it down at that time, it meant they would be hard-working the entire year.

It doesn’t matter whether the tree is set up right after Thanksgiving or taken down right after New Year’s Day, the tree is one custom that is loved and practiced by many. If you want to add a bright sparkle to your holidays, a well-decorated tree is hard to beat, fresh or artificial.

J Thomas Smith is the host of “Sunday Morning Live” on “The People’s Station” KMJQ/Majic 102.1 (9-11 CST). Your comments are welcome at Follow on Twitter @DrJThomasSmith on and