There’s a lot of folklore surrounding the Christmas tree. Many ancient civilizations, including those in Egypt and China, used the fir tree to symbolize eternal life. In medieval Christianity a fir tree hung with apples (a “paradise tree”) was used in pageant plays to symbolize the Garden of Eden.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the modern Christmas tree developed in Germany out of the paradise tree and the Christmas pyramid--a series of wood shelves that held decorations such as candles, figurines, and a star. Combining the triangular shelves (holding decorations) with the paradise tree led to the modern concept of the Christmas tree.
The decorative tree eventually migrated across Europe, to North America, and even to China and Japan in the 19th century.
Decorations throughout history have included toys and gifts, ribbon, paper, candies and cakes, glass ornaments, electric lights, and more. I’ve even seen Christmas trees at floral shops in Toronto made entirely out of peacock feathers.
(Photo of a crystal-adorned Christmas tree in the Eaton Centre, Toronto, from Wikimedia Commons)