Why Do We Decorate Our Christmas Tree? The History of the Christmas Tree and the Humble Bauble
We've all been decorating our Christmas trees with ornaments, tinsel and lights for as long as we can remember, but just when did the idea become an annual tradition? Decorating your artificial Christmas tree can actually be traced back centuries through both history and religion - with inspiration sought from all corners of culture and faith. For more recent Christmases, Christmas decorations trends combine themes that harken back to traditional colours and earth tones or inject vibrancy with neon shades. Artificial trees can be almost any colour, including black Christmas trees, and relate to every home or personality. Read on to find out more about why we have Christmas trees and why we decorate them...

Why do we have Christmas trees?

The origin of bringing a tree indoors during winter stretches back centuries, to the pagan faith. Fir trees and other evergreen trees have been used in various ways by both pagans and Christians for generations to celebrate winter festivals and the winter solstice. Trees, or at least their branches, were used for these festivals, and those of the Romans during Saturnalia, for hundreds of years.

What does the Christmas tree represent?

They used them for their symbolism. These trees, or branches, were meant to represent the life during dark, cold winter nights, while the Romans used fir trees to decorate temples for their evergreen qualities. In short, evergreen trees like fir trees have been used to represent the resilience of life and the wonders of agriculture when the months are at their darkest and the weather at its grimmest. Over the years this has morphed into the Christmas tree tradition.

Which country started the tradition of Christmas trees?

It is in Germany where modern Christmas trees truly originated, in the mid-sixteenth century. Christian festivities in Germany involved German Mystery or Miracle Plays in front of churches. These took place during Advent, as well as on Christmas Eve. These plays included  ‘The Paradise Tree’ which was supposed to represent the Garden of Eden. While the paradise tree was mainly a cutting, it’s believed to be one of the main originators. Over the years, these trees developed and fir trees were used across Germany and other parts of Northern Europe during the festive season. It is also here where decorating trees is believed to have begun, by placing candles on branches. Related: Christmas Tree & Decoration Trends 2019 It is, primarily, after the protestant reformation that decorating the Christmas tree became a tradition for the masses. During the 19th century, the custom became adopted by wider European countries.

Who brought the first Christmas tree into the home?

While the Germans were the first to start decorating their trees, it was the 16th century preacher, Martin Luther. The tail goes that Martin was walking through the woods one winter evening when he saw the stars through the canopy. Upon seeing the stars twinkling through the branches, he decided he wanted to recreate it at home. He cut down a tree, took it home and decorated the tree branches with lights. While Christmas tree lights likely originated from the candles used as part of older Christmas tree traditions, this is often quoted as one of the defining moments for the modern Christmas tree.

Why did decorating a tree become popular in the UK?

Christmas tree decoration became fashionable in the UK during Queen Victoria’s reign, most notably in 1848 when a picture was published in the Illustrated London News of the Royal Family. In an elaborate image, Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their family were pictured at Windsor Castle stood beside a large tree adorned with glass ornaments hailing from Prince Albert's native Germany. What followed was the tradition of Christmas tree decorating as we know it today, as many homes in Britain followed suit by decking out their trees with sweets, candles, homemade decorations and fruit.

Where do Christmas baubles come from?

For centuries, Christmas baubles have evolved in design, material and cost and these days any Christmas tree would look a little lost without a few cheerful baubles hanging from its branches. But just where exactly did the first bauble originate from? The original bauble comes from sixteenth century Germany in the alpine town of Lauscha. This town would become infamous for its skill in glass-blowing and Christmas ornament production. By the 1800s, founder of the first glassworks in Lauscha, Hans Greiner, began producing fruit and nut shaped glass ornaments complete with decorative silver embellishment using mercury or lead. With popularity and interest in the bauble growing, other glassworks in the area also began to produce their own style of glass decorations, creating moulds of animals, famous saints and children. Eventually, the beautiful glass ornaments, renowned as a German invention, were discovered by the infamous F.W. Woolworth on a visit to Germany. Sensing an opportunity within the rise of global commerce, he began to import the glass ornaments to the United States and the rest, as they say, is history.

What are traditional Christmas decorations?

The most traditional decorations for the Christmas tree include stars, angels, fruit and Father Christmas. Like the tree itself, many traditional decorations have their roots based in faith; the angel harking back to the nativity and the star representing Jesus as the light of the world. This is also the basis for decorating the tree with lights. Related: How to put lights on your Christmas Tree Aside from decorations, colours have their own traditions. Red and gold baubles and red and green baubles goes back to winter flora - green for the evergreen holly or mistletoe plants and red for seasonal berries, while gold represents the sun. Blue and white, or blue and silver baubles, meanwhile, represents various symbols. One is the Jewish faith so they can have their own Christmas tree during Hanukkah. Others include peace or snow - represented by white. Blue can symbolise the sky or heaven and Mary, Jesus' mother. Related: How to decorate your Christmas tree: top tips & step-by-step guide For truly special decorations, Christmas Tree World has you covered. So, when you decorate your tree, you’ll know exactly how the humble bauble began.

What is your favourite Christmas tree decoration? Check out our great range of baubles and other Christmas decorations.

We hope this has helped inspire your decorating and we're sure your tree will look amazing this year! If you'd like more festive tips, read the Christmas Tree World blog. You can also use our Christmas tree decoration calculator to find out how many decorations you should use.