Many centuries ago, evergreen plants were already a symbol of fertility and vitality in pagan cultures. Germanic tribes for example placed fir branches in public places and in front of their houses during the winter solstice to keep evil spirits away.
The oldest evidence of a decorated Christmas tree is to be found in Bremen, Germany around 1570. Some say the beginning of the 17th century, Christmas trees in Strasbourg in Alsace already decorated the living rooms of wealthy people.
In the 18th century, the custom first spread among high-ranking officials and wealthy citizens in the cities of Central Europe, as fir trees were still scarce and therefore very expensive at that time.
In the 19th century more and more fir and spruce forests were planted to meet the high demand. The decorated Christmas tree gradually became the festive inventory in middle-class living rooms in the city and in the country. Around this time emigrants also brought this custom to North America.
The Catholic Church long refused to accept this “pagan” tradition. It was only in 1982 that a Christmas tree was put up for the first time in St. Peter’s Square in Rome, Italy.