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First thought of as a German tradition, the history of Christmas trees goes way back to the symbolic use of evergreens in ancient Egypt and Rome. Trees and plants that remained evergreen the whole year round found a special meaning for people during the winter months long before the advent of Christianity.

Just as people today decorate their homes during the festive season with pine, spruce, and fir trees, ancient peoples hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows. In many countries it was believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness. It was only in the 1800s when America adapted the German practice of having candlelit Christmas trees in their homes.


Interesting Facts about Christmas Trees in the US

  • In the United States, Christmas trees have been sold commercially since around the 1850s.
  • Between 1887 and 1933, Christmas Ship—a fishing schooner—would dock along the Clark Street Bridge and sell spruce trees to residents of Chicago. The trees came from Michigan.
  • The first community Christmas tree in the United States was put up in New York City in the year 1912.
  • President Calvin Coolidge started the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in 1923. It is now held annually on the White House lawn.
  • The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree tradition began in 1933. Franklin Pierce, the 14th president, brought the Christmas tree tradition to the White House.
  • The National Christmas Tree Association—the largest association of real Christmas tree growers—has given a Christmas tree to the President and first family since 1966.
  • During his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt banned the Christmas tree from the White House due to environmental reasons.
  • In 1963, the National Christmas Tree was not lit until December 22nd because of a national 30-day period of mourning following the assassination of President Kennedy.
  • In a similar fashion, the National Christmas Tree was not lighted in 1979 except for just the top ornament. This was done in honor of the American hostages in Iran.
  • The idea of using electric lights instead of traditional candlelit trees came from some assistants of Thomas Edison.
  • Christmas trees are grown in all 50 states including Hawaii and Alaska.
  • More than 1,000,000 acres of land have been planted with Christmas trees. On average, over 2,000 Christmas trees are planted per acre.
  • Ninety-eight percent of all Christmas trees are grown on farms and generally take six to eight years to mature.
  • Most Christmas trees are cut weeks before they get to a retail outlet. They are packed in temperature-sensitive facilities so they remain fresh and pristine upon reaching the end consumers.
  • A real Christmas tree in your home will consume as much as a quart of water per day during the first week.
  • Tinsel adornments on Christmas trees was once banned by the government. Tinsel contained lead at one time. Now it’s made of plastic.
  • The best-selling trees are Douglas Fir, Scotch Pine, Fraser Fir, White Pine, and Balsam Fir.
  • Other types of trees such as cherry and hawthorns were used as Christmas trees in the past.
  • The town of Woodinville, Washington is home to what is believed to be the tallest living Christmas tree. It is a nearly century-old, 122-foot Douglas fir.