We do the same things every year: down copious amounts of eggnog; kill a tree
and cover it in lights; send fruitcake, cards and cookies to our loved ones;
kiss under a leafy branch; hang colorful socks over the fireplace and sing
off-key demands for figgy pudding at the top of our lungs. Yes, these are our
Christmas traditions. Much of what we today consider holiday perennials have
been around for about two centuries. The Christmas tree — the king of all
traditions — is the most obvious, the centerpiece of many a home. While tree
worship was common in pagan Europe, the modern Christmas tree originated with
German Lutherans in the 17th century and spread to Pennsylvania in the 1820s
after they began to immigrate to the United States. When Germany’s Prince Albert
came to England in 1840 to marry Queen Victoria, he brought the Christmas tree
with him. The royal family decorated it with small gifts, toys, candles, candies
and fancy cakes, giving rise to the modern ornament. Eight years later, a
photograph of the royal tree appeared in a London newspaper, and ownership of
the green item became the height of holiday fashion in Europe and America.

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