Artificial Christmas trees have been around since the early 1800s in other countries, and became popular in the United States in the early 1900s. In the beginning, artificial trees were made to resemble natural trees, however, over time, artificial trees have evolved and delved into an exploration of a more modern and personalized way to represent the holiday season.
Did you know that traditionally, Christmas trees were not brought in and decorated until Christmas Eve and then removed the day after the twelfth night, January 6th. In fact, it was considered bad luck to have your Christmas tree up before or after these dates.
The Feather Tree is considered one of the first artificial Christmas trees. It began in German around 1845 as the alternative to a live tree, mostly because Germany had concerns of deforestation due to harvesting live trees for Christmas. The tree was made from metal wire or sticks that were covered with goose, turkey, ostrich or swan feathers, that were died green to look like pine needles. In the United States, the tree became popular during the 1920s, however its popularity decreased by the 1930s. Feather trees remain popular today, especially with people who have period homes.
In the late 1800s, there was a growing interest in “white” Christmas trees. People made their Christmas trees white by wrapping leafless branches with white strips of cotton batting. This gave the appearance of snow on the trees and these trees didn’t drop any needles. After Christmas the cotton was stored with the other ornaments to use the following year and the branches were burned. This practice evolved into what is known as a flocked tree. Flocking is the process of depositing many small fiber particles (called flock) onto a surface. A Christmas tree can be flocked with a white, fluffy spray to resemble snow. Both real and artificially flocked trees were popular with the wealthy during the 1930s and remain available today.
The metallic trend in Christmas trees began in the 1950s. This was an era of new technology and a re-birthing from world war II. The metallic tradition seemed to rule this decade and almost every family had a metallic tree in their home. The metallic tree craze became unpopular for several years until recently. The metallic tree trend is back and it is bold, being seen in some very unnatural colors like, pink, black and aquas.
The aluminum Christmas tree is an artificial tree that gained popularity during the late 1950s, reaching its highest point of popularity during the early 60s. The tree is made of aluminum that had foil needles that attached to a wooden or aluminum pole. It was lit by a floor based color wheel that rotated and illuminated the tree from below. The aluminum tree has often been referred to as a futuristic or a space age design.
In the holiday special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, the aluminum Christmas tree was used to represent the over-commercialization of Christmas. The peanuts character, Lucy, begs Charlie Brown to get a shiny aluminum tree painted pink, but Charlie Brown opts for a more natural, small, and leggy tree instead. This tree is known as the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. These types of trees are sought out among the most full Christmas trees on the lot. They are often open and leggy and seem to represent love, togetherness and the absence of commercialism, which are the main characteristics expressed in Charlie Brown’s classic Christmas theme.
Among the fiber optic trees, there is one model, a very unconventional tree, that seems to be making a big. It is referred to as an upside down Christmas tree. These trees can be suspended from the ceiling or affixed to a wall. Many come with weighted stands to provide extra stability. These trees are just the thing for smaller homes or apartments.
In more recent years, there has been a trend toward a slimmer tree, known as the pencil tree. Some speculate that this trend is due to our desire to downsize in a weakened economy. A sort of “less is more” spin to the holiday season. This style is reminiscent of the tall conical trees that were seen during the Victorian era.
All of these trends are only a small part of an even larger array of styles and designs that are available today. Regardless of style, or your preference for real or artificial, it is our love of the holiday tradition of Christmas tree decorating that endures through the generations.