Did you know that, since 2007, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree has usually been donated to Habitat for Humanity International to be milled into lumber for homeless people? Yes, that’s true! Christmas trees have been around for a considerable time, though, playing a massive role in making the festive season fun. Here are some exciting Christmas tree facts that you probably didn’t know.
1. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert Helped Popularize Christmas Trees
Even though the custom of displaying Christmas trees was introduced in Britain in the 18th century, it wasn’t popular. However, the culture gained traction when the images of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert surrounding a Christmas tree surfaced.
2. Christmas Pickles Are Placed under Christmas Trees for Good Fortune
The Christmas pickle tradition involves hiding a pickle-shaped decoration under a Christmas tree, so whoever finds it gets a prize or good fortune for the coming year. Even though the custom is mostly associated with Germany, it is very unpopular in the region.
3. The Christmas Tree Custom Started in Central Europe and the Baltic States
The custom of putting up Christmas trees during the festive season in December started in Central Europe and the Baltic States, including Latvia (previously Livonia), Germany, and Estonia. Protestant Christians placed decorated trees in their homes, birthing the tradition.
4. The White House Has an Official Christmas Tree
Popularly known as the Blue Room Christmas Tree, the White House, the official residency of the United States President, has an official Christmas tree. Even though the first item was installed somewhere in the 19th century, it wasn’t until 1961 that it became a thing.
The custom continues to date, with only the tree species and where it was grown varying. The 2023 White House Christmas tree is a Fleetwood, North Carolina Fraser fir.
5. Christmas Trees Were Initially Decorated with Candles
Before the advent of electrification that resulted in Christmas lights, people used candles to decorate/illuminate their trees. Sweetmeats, wafers, tinsel, apples, and roses made of colored paper were also used.
6. Edward H. Johnson Put The First Christmas Tree Lights
While Thomas Edison is credited with inventing the first practical electric light bulb, his friend and colleague, Edward H. Johnson, placed the first electric lights on a Christmas tree. In 1882, he hand-wired a string of 80 lights in different colors, including blue, red, and white bulbs.
7. An Artificial Christmas Tree Can Cost up to $850,000
Artificial Christmas trees have gained popularity over time thanks to their ease of customization and other benefits. Even though most of these items are affordable, some can be quite costly. For instance, one created by Ginza Tanaka Jewelry in Tokyo, Japan, cost about $850,000. It was made of 24-carat gold.
8. Pope John Paul II Brought the First Christmas Tree to the Vatican in 1982
For the longest time, the Catholic church snubbed the idea of having Christmas trees. It took until 1982 for the then-pope, John Paul II, to bring the first Christmas tree to the Vatican. Today, a prayer for officially blessing a Christmas tree is included in the Catholic liturgy.
9. A Charlie Brown Christmas Hugely Affected the Sales of Aluminum Christmas Trees
A Charlie Brown Christmas was an animated Christmas television special popular from the 1960s. The show was so successful that its creator ventured into selling Christmas tree merchandise. Many people bought them, denting the sales of previously dominant aluminum trees – the show singlehandedly revitalized the industry.
10. The National Christmas Tree Wasn’t Lit in 1979
The United States has a National Christmas tree that has been decorated and lit since 1923. However, in 1979, President Jimmy Carter announced that it would remain unlit in honor of the Americans who were held captives in Iraq. In reality, the president’s daughter had thrown away the tree lights switch, leaving only the star at the top lit up.
11. There is No Stipulated Time for Lighting a Christmas Tree
As long as it is before the day of Christmas (25th December), there is no perfect time for erecting or lighting a Christmas tree. Depending on the culture and part of the world, you can light it as early as 29th November or as late as Christmas Eve. Most people choose to leave the Christmas tree intact until the New Year.
12. The Australian Christmas Tree Is Nothing Like the Ordinary
In most parts of the world, Christmas trees are spruce, fir, or pine, decorated to an individual’s liking. However, the Australian Christmas tree is nothing like that. Scientifically known as Nuytsia floribunda and locally as “moodjar,” the tree is hemiparasitic, displays bright colors, and is prevalent during Christmas.
13. There Are Public Christmas Trees
Initially, Christmas trees were specific for individual homes and private use. However, since the early 20th century, decorations have been common in public spaces. The New York City-based Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and Atlanta’s Macy’s Great Tree are among the most popular.
14. Christmas Trees Were Once Hanged on the Ceilings Like Chandeliers
Christmas trees were hanging on the ceilings like chandeliers when they were still a new concept. Legend has it that a Benedictine monk adopted the triangle shape of an inverted tree to explain the Holy Trinity. The Polish took the idea and sought to hang their Christmas trees. Today, the concept is not as popular, but anyone who wants to try it can find suitable products in stores.
15. The Tallest Christmas Tree Was More Than 67 Meters Tall
According to the Guinness World Records, the tallest Christmas tree was 67.36 meters tall (221 feet). In December 1950, the Seattle-based Northgate Shopping Center erected and decorated the Douglas fir tree (Pseudotsga menziesii). Today, the largest Christmas tree is in Dortmund, Germany. It measures around 46 meters (150 feet) tall and is often referred to as the King Kong of Christmas trees.
16. The First Artificial Christmas Trees Were Made of Goose Feathers and Wires
The first artificial Christmas trees were made by the Germans in the 1880s. They were made of dyed goose feathers linked together with wires and attached to a pole. It wasn’t until the 1930s that the North Americans started using artificial Christmas trees made from brush bristles. Today, most of these products are made from aluminum and plastic.
17. Christmas Trees Aren’t Always Trees
Some people worldwide make “Christmas trees” from pretty much anything. Some make them from sand, while others use hubcaps, lobster traps, or deer antlers.
18. Christmas Tree Farms Are A Source of Livelihoods for Many Americans
In the United States alone, about 15,000 farms are growing Christmas trees. Located in 50 states, including Hawaii, the industry employs over 100,000 full- or part-time people.