There are many variations of where this custom started, here are just a couple…
Legend claims that in the eighth century, Saint Boniface of Germany found a group of pagans worshipping an oak tree, he was angered by this and had it cut down. Almost immediately a small fir tree sprang up from the center of the oak stump reaching the sky. Saint Boniface then told the onlookers that it was a holy tree because it was evergreen, symbolising everlasting life.
Another claim is that Ancient Egyptians decorated their homes with green palm branches which symbolized life’s triumph over death.
Whilst Romans decorated their homes during the winter months with evergreens to celebrate the festival of Saturnalia, honouring Saturnus the god of Farming.
Some believe that in 1500, whilst Martin Luther was walking through a snowy woods in Germany, he saw the reflection of the stars and the moonlight on the landscape and evergreen trees and went home and placed candles on a small tree in his house in an attempt to show his children the majesty surrounding Christ’s birth.
However, the first written proof of use of a Christmas tree originates from the sixteenth century in Germany. It states that a tree was used as a prop in a play about Adam and Eve and adorned with apples, to celebrate the feast of Adam on 24th December.
Thus people started decorating a paradise tree changing apples to wafers, symbolizing the host, and eventually the wafers were replaced with cookies.
Traditionally Christmas trees were not brought in and decorated until Christmas eve and then removed the day after twelfth night (5 January) as to have a tree up before or after these dates was considered bad luck.