Here we are, three whole days into December and I'm just getting around to my Christmas tree. I feel I'm the last one. Cities have had their garlands and lights up since just after Halloween! It's wild how quickly the year has gone by. Seems like I was just packing away the tree from last year (yes, I have an artificial tree. I picked it up at a thrift store 5 years ago for $10... might be the best $10 I've ever spent, but that's for another post).
So as I'm assembling my tree, I'm wondering, "how did Christmas trees become a symbol of Christmas?" To the Google machine! And Encyclopedia Britannica says (as do a whole host of other sources) the Germans get the credit for this tradition! Yep, 16th century and the Germans decide instead of having both a Paradise Tree (Apparently, it was a prop in a medieval play about Adam and Eve to symbolize eternal life, and then the Germans started using it to celebrate the religious feast day for Adam and Eve on December 24th by hanging wafer and cookies on it) and a Christmas pyramid (A triangular-shaped stack of wooden shelves used to hold Christmas figurines, evergreen boughs, candles, and a star) they said, "hey, if we combined these two things, we will save a ton of space!" (ok, that's probably not how it went exactly, but you get the point).
This tradition became widespread by the 18th century amongst the German Lutheran's (even taking it to America), and by the following century it had spread throughout all of Germany, England (thanks to German-born Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria) and were the height of fashion. Christmas trees made their way to Eastern Asia by the 19th and 20th centuries.