1510 – The first written record of a decorated Christmas tree comes from Riga, Latvia. Men of the local merchants’ guild decorated a tree with artificial roses, danced around it in the marketplace and then set fire to it. The rose was used for many years and is considered to be a symbol for the Virgin Mary.
1530 – There is record from Alsace, France (then Germany territory) that trees were sold in the marketplace and brought home and set up undecorated. Laws limited the size to “8 shoe lengths” (slightly over 4 feet).
1600s – By the 17th century, it was common in Germany to decorate Christmas Trees with apples. This practice was a holdover from the 14th and 15th centuries when evergreen boughs hung with apples were the only prop used in the “miracle plays” that were performed at the churches on Dec. 24. Dec. 24 was Adam and Eve’s Day in the early Christian calendar, and the plays were used as ways of teaching the Bible to a largely illiterate population.
1700s – In parts of Austria and Germany, evergreen tips were brought into the home and hung top down from the ceiling. They were often decorated with apples, gilded nuts and red paper strips. Edible ornaments became so popular on Christmas Trees that they were often called “sugar trees.” The first accounts of using lighted candles as decorations on Christmas Trees come from France in the 18th century.
1800s – The Christmas tree is introduced in the United States by German settlers. It rapidly grows from tabletop size to floor-to-ceiling.
1851 – Christmas trees are begun to be sold commercially in the United States. They are taken at random from the forests.
1853 – Franklin Pierce brings the first Christmas tree to the White House.
Late 1800s – The first glass ornaments were introduced into the United States, again from Germany. The first ones were mostly balls, but later chains of balls, toys and figures became more common.
1883 – Sears, Roebuck & Company begin offering the first artificial Christmas trees – 33 limbs for $.50 and 55 limbs for $1.
1900s – Due to overharvesting, the natural supply of evergreens begin to be decimated. Conservationists become alarmed, and many magazines begin to encourage people to substitute an artificial “snow” covered tree, consisting of a branch of a deciduous tree wrapped in cotton.
1901 – The first Christmas tree farm is started in 1901 when W.V. McGalliard planted 25,000 Norway spruce trees on his farm in New Jersey. Theodore Roosevelt trys to stop the practice of having Christmas trees out of concern about the destruction of forests. His two sons don’t agree and enlist the help of conservationist Gifford Pinchot to persuade the president that, done properly, the practice is not harmful to the forests.
1930s – President Franklin D. Roosevelt starts a Christmas tree farm on his estate in Hyde Park, NY.
1931 – The first tree at Rockefeller Center is a small unadorned tree which is placed by construction workers at the center of the construction site. Two years later, another tree is placed there, this time with lights.
1948 – The tallest tree displayed at Rockefeller Center is a Norway Spruce that measures in at 100 ft. and hails from Killingworth, CT.
1966 – The National Christmas Tree Association begins its time-honored tradition of having the Grand Champion grower present a Christmas Tree to the First Lady for display in the Blue Room of the White House. Howard Pierce of Black River Falls, WI, presents a tree to President Lyndon Johnson and First Lady Lady Bird Johnson.
2013– First Lady Michelle Obama receives the official White House Christmas Tree from Christopher Botek, a second-generation Christmas tree farmer from Crystal Spring Tree Farm in Lehighton, PA.
2015– Pennsylvania provides the Christmas tree to the White House, an 18 ft. Fraser fir that hails from Bustard’s Christmas Trees in Carbon County.
2017– The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, a Norway Spruce, comes from State College, PA.
2018– The 72 ½ tree displayed at Rockefeller Center has over 25,000 lights and is adorned with a crystal star weighing 900 lbs.