Christmas Tree Trivia, Fun Facts & History

wooden ornaments on tree
Simple wooden ornaments adorn the tree. | Image courtesy Pexels

The history of Christmas trees predates Christmas itself. According to history.com, from ancient times, people have hung decorative evergreen boughs over their doors and windows—and in many countries, they were believed to ward off evil spirits and illness. Study.com cites the Christmas tree tradition as originating in 16th century Germany, where evergreen trees were decorated with apples at Christmastime. They were called “paradise trees” because the decorative apples represented the Biblical forbidden fruit. Later in Germany trees were decorated with candles and pastries in the shape of angels, flowers, hearts, and stars.

The Tradition of Christmas Trees

Read on to learn more about how the Christmas tree tradition spread around the globe, plus more fun facts about one of the world’s most beloved symbols of Christmas.

  • In the US, Pennsylvania German settlers had community trees as early as 1747, but the first record of a tree being on display in America was in the 1830s.

    mollybrown.org
    Queen Victoria popularized the Christmas tree. | Image courtesy mollybrown.org
  • In 1846, Queen Victoria and her beloved Albert, a German prince, were sketched standing with their children around a Christmas tree, making it immediately popular with both the British court and East Coast American society.
  • Along with the Nativity scene, the Christmas tree is popular in Guatemala because of their large German population.
  • President Benjamin Harrison placed the first Christmas tree in the White House in 1889.
  • Not all White House families put up trees after President Harrison. Teddy Roosevelt, a devoted conservationist, didn’t approve of cutting trees for Christmas decorations.
  • Thomas Edison’s assistants came up with the idea of electric lights for Christmas trees and Grover Cleveland’s presidency saw the first electric lights used on a White House Christmas tree.
  • Calvin Coolidge was the first president to preside over the National Christmas tree lighting ceremony in 1923. In 1954, a Pathway of Peace featuring smaller trees representing every state was added to the National Christmas tree celebration.
  • Jackie Kennedy began the tradition of selecting a theme for the official White House Christmas tree in the Blue Room in 1961, with a Nutcracker Suite ballet theme.
  • After the death of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963, the lighting of the National Christmas tree was postponed until after a 30-day period of national mourning.

    Historic Rockefeller Center Christmas tree
    Humble beginnings of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in NYC. | Image courtesy 6sqft
  • The Rockefeller Christmas tree tradition dates back to the Great Depression. In 1931, construction workers at the Rockefeller Center site decided to pool their money to buy a tree that they decorated with handmade garlands. In 1933, Rockefeller Center made it an annual tradition.
  • During WWII, the Rockefeller tree was decorated with patriotic red, white, and blue globes and stars—and no materials needed for the war could be used on the tree. In 1944, the tree couldn’t be lit due to wartime blackout rules.
  • In 1999, a 100-foot Norway Spruce from Killingworth, Connecticut was the tallest Rockefeller tree ever.
Christmas tree cutting
25-30 million trees are taken home in the U.S. every year. | Image courtesy Natl. Christmas Tree Association
  • According to the National Christmas Tree Association, there are 25-30 million trees sold in the US every year.
  • There are almost 15,000 farms growing Christmas trees in the US and more than 100,000 people employed in the industry.
  • California, Oregon, Michigan, Washington, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina are the top tree producing states.
  • The 10 most popular types of Christmas tree are Balsam fir, Douglas fir, Fraser fir, Noble fir, Scotch pine, White pines, Colorado blue spruce, White fir, Leyland cypress, and Virginia pine.
  • The average growing time for a Christmas tree is 7 years, but it can take as many as 15 years to grow a tree to the typical height of 6-7 feet.
  • In the first 5-7 days, a cut tree in your home will consume as much as a quart of water a day.

Ready to impress your friends and relatives with your newly learned tree trivia? Consider kicking off the holiday season with a tree trimming party.

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