The decorated Christmas tree can be traced back to the ancient Romans who during their winter festival decorated trees with small pieces of metal during Saturnalia, a winter festival in honor of Saturnus, the god of agriculture.
An evergreen, the Paradise tree, was decorated with apples as a symbol of the feast of Adam and Eve held on December 24th during the middle ages.
In the 16th century Martin Luther was credited as being the first to decorate an indoor tree. After a walk through a forest of evergreens with shining stars overhead, Luther tried to describe the experience to his family and showed them by bringing a tree into their home and decorating it with candles.
The custom of the Christmas tree was introduced in the United States during the War of Independence by Hessian troops. An early account tells of a Christmas tree set up by American soldiers at Fort Dearborn, Illinois, the site of Chicago, in 1804. Most other early accounts in the United States were among the German settlers in eastern Pennsylvania.
In 1834, Queen Victorias husband, Prince Albert, brought the firt Christmas tree to Windsor Castle for the Royal Family.
Charles Minnegrode introduced the custom of decorating trees in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1842.
By 1850, the Christmas tree had become fashionable in the eastern states. Until this time, it had been considered a quaint foreign custom.
Mark Carr brought trees from the Catskills to the streets of New York in 1851, and opened the first retail Christmas tree lot in the United States.
Franklin Pierce was the first president to introduce the Christmas tree to the White House in 1856 for a group of Washington Sunday School children. The first national ChristmasTree was lighted in the year 1923 on the White House lawn by President Calvin Coolidge.
Source: University of Illinois Extension