Curious Nature: How did the Christmas tree tradition start?
When it comes to the holiday season, many of us have traditions we use to celebrate that we hold near and dear to our hearts. There are many holidays and traditions during the winter and they range from the common to the more personal.
One of the most notable practices is the tradition of the Christmas tree. Millions of people every year erect and skillfully decorate the conifer in their homes to help kick off the holiday season. Whether it is plastic or pine, it is hard to picture the holidays without them. But how did such a tradition start?
The first recorded appearance of the Christmas tree dates back to 17th century Germany when Christians would bring trees into their home. Martin Luther is credited as the first person to add decorations to the tree, adding lights after being inspired by the stars that shone above the evergreens.
The first American Christmas tree to be displayed dates back to the 1830s when German settlers in Pennsylvania placed one as a community tree. This tradition was originally not well accepted by the earlier and more devout settlers. Many had seen the display as a pagan mockery of the extremely religious holiday.
In Massachusetts, it was even illegal to have decorations up for the holiday. It was not until Queen Victoria and her family were illustrated around a Christmas tree in 1848 that trees started to become more popular in the United States. The tree has now grown to become a staple of the holiday season. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, 25 to 30 million trees are sold each year.
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With so many trees being put up every year, picking out the tree of your dreams also provides an opportunity for making a more sustainable choice. In the artificial versus real tree debate, it is a better option to go with a real tree from a farm or forest.
For those looking to unleash their inner Lumberjack or Jill, there are some guidelines to keep in mind. The first order of business before chopping down your tree is getting a permit from the Forest Service which costs $10 per tree and allows you to cut up to five trees per household. A permit is available for purchase either in person at the Minturn ranger station or online from Recreation.gov.
After you acquire the necessary permits, it is important to follow all of the Forest Service rules and regulations. For example, the Colorado Blue Spruce is off-limits when it comes to the Christmas tree permit and Wilderness areas are out of bounds.
Once you find and chop down the perfect tree, just attach the permit to the base and transport it for decoration and celebration. In the end, holidays are a wonderful time to spend with family and friends and are filled with rich traditions from many cultures. Whether you decide to bring a tree inside this winter or celebrate in other ways, we wish you a happy holiday season!
Charlie Brockman is a naturalist at Walking Mountain Science Center. You can find him hanging out by an alpine lake or hiking through nature searching for wildlife.