The early Roman celebration of Saturnalia, designed to appease agricultural gods who determined the fate of their crops, included the use of evergreen boughs to decorate homes.
The Druids, Celts and Vikings also used them during their winter solstice ceremonies to signify hope during the seasonal dead zone.So how did the practice morph from humble branches to majestic trees?
Some credit 16th Century Germany for that shift. That’s when small evergreen trees were decorated with candies, apples and berries and used in church plays.
Suddenly, the pagan ritual got a Christian makeover, and the uses of larger and grander trees during the winter season spread across Europe. By comparison, Americans got in on the practice relatively late. It’s believed that the first Christmas trees appeared in German American communities in the early 1800s.
But by and large, 19th century Americans still viewed the holidays as pagan until Britain’s Queen Victoria and her family were sketched standing near a brightly festooned Christmas arrangement in 1846.
Soon after, members of the American elite competed to earn credit for the most lavish displays of holiday splendor.