What is the real meaning of the Christmas tree?

Nothing could be more Christmas-y than a Christmas tree. Except that Christmas trees actually have pagan origins, so there's that. "Wait, you mean Jesus didn't invent the Christmas tree?" 'Fraid not.

The Christmas tree is actually much older than Christianity, only in the old days it wasn't called a Christmas tree, obviously, and people didn't usually put the whole tree in their homes. But evergreen trees were a powerful symbol of survival — as the only thing that remained green through the cold winter, people believed that evergreens could ward off the evils of those long, freezing nights. According to History, ancient people would often place evergreen boughs over their doors and windows to keep evil spirits out of the home.

It wasn't just the Celts, though. The Romans used evergreen boughs during their celebration of Saturnalia, and the Egyptians did something similar during the winter solstice — they thought the sun god Ra spent the winter nursing a flu (or something), and to celebrate his recovery, they would decorate their homes with green palm rushes.

Thank the Germans for your Christmas tree

It was the Germans, though, who actually made the Christmas tree a thing, according to German Culture. In the 16th century, they started bringing whole trees into their houses and decorating them. They also sometimes built pyramids out of wood and then covered them with evergreen boughs. The 16th-century Protestant reformer Martin Luther is thought to be the guy who decided to make these elaborate centerpieces a fire hazard — History says he was walking home one winter evening, admiring the way the stars shone through the evergreen trees, when it occurred to him that you could recreate the effect in the home with candles. From there it was not a huge leap to get to strings of popcorn, glass baubles, fake snow, Hallmark special releases, and leg lamp ornaments. Happily, modern trees are less combustible than those early candle-adorned ones. Though if you still haven't switched over to LEDs, there's no time like the present.