A Christmas tree is a decorated tree , usually an evergreen conifer such as spruce , pine , or fir or an artificial tree of similar appearance, associated with the celebration of Christmas . The modern Christmas tree was developed in medieval Livonia (present- day Estonia and Latvia ) and early modern Germany , where Protestant Germans brought decorated trees into their homes. It acquired popularity beyond the Lutheran areas of Germany and the Baltic countries during the second half of the 19th century , at first among the upper classes.
The tree was traditionally decorated with " roses made of colored paper , apples , wafers, tinsel, [and] sweetmeats". In the 18th century, it began to be illuminated by candles , which were ultimately replaced by Christmas lights after the advent of electrification. Today, there is a wide variety of traditional ornaments, such as garlands , baubles , tinsel, and candy canes. An angel or star might be placed at the top of the tree to represent the Angel Gabriel or the Star of Bethlehem from the Nativity. Edible items such as gingerbread , chocolate and other sweets are also popular and are tied to or hung from the tree 's branches with ribbons.
In the Western Christian tradition , Christmas trees are variously erected on days such as the first day of Advent or even as late as Christmas Eve depending on the country ; customs of the same faith hold that the two traditional days when Christmas decorations, such as the Christmas tree , are removed are Twelfth Night and, if they are not taken down on that day , Candlemas, the latter of which ends the Christmas -Epiphany season in some denominations.
The Christmas tree is sometimes compared with the "Yule- tree ", especially in discussions of its folkloric origins.