Evergreens have long been used at Christmas in many forms including wreaths, garlands and, of course, trees. The Christmas tree is a staple of the holidays. Lights and ornaments provide an atmosphere of joy and happiness.
Evergreen trees were seen as a symbol of hope of spring returning in the barren European winter by many pagan cultures. Evergreen branches were used in churches to represent eternal life during Christmas celebrations.
Bringing trees inside as part of Christmas did not occur until the early 1500s and is attributed to the German church reformist Martin Luther. The story describes Luther coming home one night in winter and seeing stars shining through the branches of fir trees.
He was so overcome with the beauty and moving experience on that cold winter’s night that he returned home and told his family about this amazing sight. They then proceeded to cut a tree and bring it inside and decorated it with candles to recreate the scene. The practice became popular in Germany and spread throughout much of Europe.
Another story tells that when Christianity first came to Northern Europe, three virtues were sent from heaven. The virtues were looking for a tree that was a high as hope, great as love and sweet as charity. Their search ended in forests of the north where they found a fir tree, lit with the radiance of the stars. That become the first Christmas tree.
The Christmas tree reportedly came to England when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert who set up a Christmas tree in Windsor Castle to remind him of his homeland.