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Long before the advent of Christianity, plants and trees that remained green all year had a special meaning for people in the winter.Discover the history of the Christmas tree, from the earliest winter solstice celebrations, to Queen Victoria and all the way to the annual lighting of the Rockefeller Center tree.The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree dates back to the Depression Era days.

It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree.

It is not surprising that, like many other festive Christmas customs, the tree was adopted so late in America. The pilgrims’s second governor, William Bradford, wrote that he tried hard to stamp out “pagan mockery” of the observance, penalizing any frivolity.

The influential Oliver Cromwell preached against “the heathen traditions” of Christmas carols, decorated trees, and any joyful expression that desecrated “that sacred event.” In 1659, the General Court of Massachusetts enacted a law making any observance of December 25 (other than a church service) a penal offense; people were fined for hanging decorations.

With this, Christmas trees began to appear in town squares across the country and having a Christmas tree in the home became an American tradition.

The Rockefeller Center tree is located at Rockefeller Center, west of Fifth Avenue from 47th through 51st Streets in New York City.

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