In December 1842, an extraordinary event took place at the Armory Hall in Boston, Massachusetts. Word quickly spread that a German “Christkindleinbaum” was in the great room where an antislavery fair was taking place. Bostonian's were in awe of their first Christmas tree. What started out as a minor living room sale to aid the antislavery cause creating “Free Labor” ornaments grew into a colossal annual fundraiser bringing in $5,000.
The Christmas tree custom was popularized by Prince Albert and Queen Victoria’s court. In 1843, Charles Dickens published a Christmas Carol and the evergreen was here to stay. Winter solstice celebrations lauding evergreens cut across cultural bounds. Egyptians treasured them, Druids used trees in their rituals while Scandinavians and Germans placed the trees in their homes during Yule. Romans celebrated Sol Invictus, birth of the unconquered sun, every December 25th to honor the Winter Solstice with gifts, pastries, and lighted lamps.
In 1500, Martin Luther allegedly began the Christmas tradition of decorating evergreens with candles. During the holiday season, Edison hung electric lights outside his Menlo Park Lab for railroad passengers to see. However, it wasn’t until President Cleveland had the White House Christmas tree illuminated with electric lights that the practice took hold in America.