The Christmas tree is thought to have developed from the "Paradise Tree," an evergreen tree decorated with apples and used in a popular play about Adam and Eve held on December 24th in medieval Germany. Martin Luther is credited with being the first to decorate a tree with lights. As he walked through the woods near his home, he looked up into the night sky and thought about the star that led the wise men to the Holy Child. He then took home a small tree and decorated it with candles to represent the stars he saw that night and told hes family about his walk through the woods and recounted to them the story of the Christ Child.
Decorating the Christmas tree was very popular in Germany. In fact many of the first ornaments were made in Germany. No tree could match the splendor of the German Christmas trees. German emigrants, who settled in Pennsylvania, brought the first Christmas trees to America as early as 1747.
As the country grew, more and more Christmas trees appeared. In 1851, Mark Carr opened the first retail Christmas tree lot in the United States, hauling his trees from the Catskill Mountains to New York City. These early-American trees were decorated with candles, popcorn, nuts, and homemade paper ornaments. If the family were well-to-do, a few ornaments imported from Germany would be seen on the tree.
This year over 37 million American families will celebrate the holidays with a real Christmas tree. The most popular varieties of Christmas tree? Scotch pine and Douglas fir.