The many Christmas traditions we celebrate come from a variety of countries; and since the U.S. is a “melting pot” of immigrants, many of our traditions were brought to this country long ago.

For instance, the Christmas tree originated in Germany, and candles were affixed on the branches using melted wax or pins.

As you can imagine, fires were a real problem and when electricity became available, small lights replaced the candles in the late 1800s.

Strings of safe Christmas lights came to this country in the early 1900s; as a sign of wealth, they were brought outside the home and donned trees in yards.

Now we have lights strung all around our homes, along the sidewalks, bushes, trees, and even animated creatures and characters. The original tradition of simple Christmas trees has come a long way with technology.

One of the more drastic changes is the artificial Christmas tree, which was created in Germany in the late 1800s. I can’t imagine how this came to be a need, but it did — first as wire covered with goose feathers, dyed green to mimic pine tree needles. In the 1930s, a company that made toilet brushes began mass producing artificial trees using that same technology. They were accompanied by a separate “spotlight-type” wheel, which revolved and changed the colors shining on the tree. They’ve sure come a long way since then, haven’t they?

I have fond childhood memories of going to get a fresh Christmas tree, bringing it home, and taking in the fresh scent of pine that overtook our home.

I remember saying I would never get an artificial tree. I hate to admit it, but my family did succumb to the fake tree some years ago, after ruining our carpet on several occasions from our cats trying to climb the tree and making it fall over, spilling the water. Also, it was more convenient getting an artificial tree when we were in the military, since we traveled home for two weeks each Christmas, always coming back to a dead tree.

Choosing an artificial tree over a real one is definitely a matter of preference — whether it is for convenience, to save money, to avoid allergies, etc. But putting up and decorating a tree is a tradition that many families look forward to each year, adding a touch of nature to our celebration.

There’s something special about seeing the lights in the evergreen that brings out the Christmas spirit in us all.

Darla Menking is a certified Bell County Texas Master Gardener and a Texas Master Naturalist. Email her at

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