by Brett Leveridge
From the grand Rockefeller Center Christmas tree to sparkly trees in Disneyland, Christmas trees brighten December across the country.
The Christmas tree we're familiar with today has a centuries-old history. It was first adopted in Germany during the 16th century. In fact, it's said by some that Martin Luther was the first to add lighted candles to the decorated trees. Americans were slow to adopt the custom; as late as the mid-19th century, many in the U.S. considered them pagan symbols. But an illustration in the Illustrated London News that depicted Queen Victory and Prince Albertstanding with their children around a Christmas tree is credited with making the custom popular—in Britain and in the United States.
Today, we glimpse Christmas trees everywhere, from small churches to upscale malls. Enjoy these community Christmas trees that have become treasured examples of a now-beloved holiday tradition.
The National Christmas Tree has been a tradition since 1923, and since 1954, it's been encircled by the Pathway of Peace, which is lined by 56 smaller trees representing the 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia. The televised lighting of the tree has become an annual entertainment event, with celebrity hosts, musical superstars and the participation of the First Family.
Madison Square Park, just across the way from the Flatiron Building on 23rd street in Manhattan, played a special role in the history of Christmas in the United States: The country's first public Christmas tree was illuminated there on Christmas Eve 1912. The location of that tree is marked by the illuminated Star of Hope on a tall pole, installed in 1916 at the southern end of the park.
This beloved park goes all out in celebrating Christmas—Mickey Mouse and his pals celebrate the holiday season for a full 60 days—so it's not surprising that the Disney folks don't cut corners with their tree, which stands 60 feet tall and is decorated with more than 1,800 ornaments and 70,000 lights
The Windy City's had an official city tree since 1913. For more than a half-century, it was installed in Grant Park, then it spent nearly five decades in Daley (formerly Civic Center) Plaza, but since 2015, the tree has called Millennium Park home.
A tradition for more than 30 years, the annual unveiling of the Origami Holiday Tree marks the beginning of the holiday season at New York's American Museum of Natural History. The tree is festooned with origami models inspired by the items in the museum's exhibitions. Volunteers begin crafting the tiny creations in March.
This 60-foot, 10,000-lb. Christmas tree is set aglow each year with 19,000 multi-colored LED lights and sparkling red and sliver ornaments in downtown Detroit's Campus Martius Park, a re-established park that was dedicated in 2004. Those who come to view the tree can also ice skate nearby.
Delray Beach's tree, covered with more than 15,000 LED lights, is positioned in the city's Old School Square. The tree, which stands 100 feet tall, dwarfing the palm trees that surround it, is topped by a 18-feet-tall star.
This upscale shopping center is home to the largest indoor Christmas tree in the country. The tree, which weighs five tons, towers four stories above the Galleria's ice-skating rink and is topped by a 10-foot star illuminated by LED lights.
This festive juniper growing on the median of Interstate 17 in Arizona, near the Sunset Point rest area an hour north of Phoenix, has intrigued drivers for nearly three decades. Tom Foster, a retired Arizona Department of Transportation engineer, claims to know the identities of the people—or are they elves?—who decorate this tree each year, but he’s not spilling—even though the department disapproves of unauthorized roadside displays. “The juniper brightens the drive to Phoenix,” he says. “So we’re treating this as a special case.”
You might not think it'd be easy to find a giant evergreen in on the island of Oahu, but each year the urban forestry division of the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation receives dozens of offers from local residents willing to share their trees. In early December each year, the chosen tree is erected outside Honolulu Hale, the city's chief municipal building—its city hall, if you will—and decorated with 4,000 lights and dozens of ornaments of varying sizes. It's all part of the annual Honolulu City Lights Festival.
Though the National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C., probably has a more legitimate claim to the title, the seven-story spruce that towers over the ice-skating rink in Rockefeller Center might arguably deserve to be called “America's Christmas Tree.” After all, it's appeared in countless movies and television shows and is probably one of the first sights that come to mind for most out-of-towners when they think of the Big Apple. A bit of trivia: The tree's 30,000 energy-efficient LEDs are powered by solar power, provided by nearby solar panels.
Click on a picture to enjoy more inspiring photos and stories.
Explore the collection of slideshows and discover inspirational quotes, beautiful photos, and powerful stories of hope.