Christmas trees – every one is special. Whether it’s a skinny tree that looks like a twig, a Charlie Brown type of tree that has sprigs of greenery hanging on for dear life, a Griswold version of a mammoth tree that sure didn’t look that big in the field, a tabletop tree-like presentation, or an outright ‘no greenery here,’ all synthetic fiber optic tree suggestion, each Christmas tree has its own charm. And, no matter what type it is, it’s your Christmas tree!
When did people get the idea to bring a tree into their home to decorate for Christmas? Probably much further back in history than you might expect. Germany is credited with having Christmas trees in homes in the 16th century.
Fast forward to the mid-1800s. Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, decorated their Christmas tree with candles, fruit, gingerbread, and all sorts of sweets. By the 1850s, decorations had gotten much more ornate and miniature musical ornaments and furniture were included, along with jewelry, dolls, and other toys. In the late 1800s, retailers sold Christmas ornaments, although most folks continued to use homemade decorations. European trees were generally small (around four feet), while in the United States, bigger was better, and having to trim the tree just to get it into the house was common.
In the 1920s to 1940s, getting a Christmas tree usually meant going out and cutting down a tree to haul home a few days before Christmas. Most people didn’t water the cut trees so they didn’t last very long. To keep the tree upright, many times the tree was nailed to a cross board and that was simply nailed to the floor. No worries about trees falling over! Decorations were pretty sparse – popcorn strung together with needle and thread served as garland. Pinecones used as ornaments or paper, homemade ornaments were common. A linked length of colored paper loops might serve as another style of garland.
Remember those big bulb Christmas lights in all sorts of colors? If one went out, they all did. Compared to the dainty white twinkle lights so popular lately, they are huge. Did you have bubble lights on your tree? Those gained popularity when they were introduced in 1946 and were a little finicky. They had to be kept vertical to work correctly.
By the 1950s, Christmas trees looked very different. In 1953, Lionel introduced the idea of the train set running around the family Christmas tree and it took off. Nothing said homey like a little choo-choo train traveling around the family tree. As for the tree, well, green might be nice, but a few cans of fake snow added so much to the wintry wonderland look of snow-covered tree branches. It was either flocking or icicles. Remember icicles? They couldn’t just be thrown on the tree. No, they had to be placed in small groups all over for a balanced look after everything else had been put on – lights, garland, and decorations. All that, peeking through shimmery gauze, was quite pretty.
On the other spectrum, did your family have an artificial tree? Many did and still do today. Real trees are messy and since they stay up for longer periods of time, require regular watering to keep them fresh. Enter the alternative – the silver tinsel tree introduced in 1955. That silver tree that looked so futuristic (think George Jetson’s family tree) with its very own color wheel that changed the tree from red, to blue, green, and yellow as it slowly turned to its own humming noise. And now, we’ve evolved to fiber optic trees of every size, from desktop, tabletop, to floor models. At least their changing colors are built into the trees now and not an added component.
Whatever kind of tree you and your family select, enjoy decorating it in your own unique way. Perhaps you like the nostalgic type of tree with all kinds of ornaments, a themed tree for your favorite sports or a color specific tree to blend with your décor. No matter what, just enjoy the time together getting it ready to celebrate once again with those you hold dear to your heart. Merry Christmas to all!