The Christmas tree is a decorated evergreen coniferous tree, real or artificial, and a tradition associated with the celebration of Christmas. The Christmas tree is traditionally brought into the home and decorated with Christmas lights (originally candles), ornaments, garlands, tinsel, and candy canes during the days around Christmas. An angel or star is placed at the top of the tree, representing the host of angels or the Star of Bethlehem from the Nativity.
The earliest accounts of decorating an evergreen tree at Christmas were recorded in Livonia and in Germany in the 16th century.
The Christmas tree is sometimes called a Yule tree, particularly by those who wish to avoid Christian connections, but others explicitly distinguish between the two or identify the Yule tree with an undecorated evergreen tree.
The custom of erecting a decorated Christmas tree can be historically traced back at least as far as 15th century Livonia (present-day Estonia and Latvia) and 16th century Northern Germany. According to the first documented uses of a Christmas tree in Estonia, in 1441, 1442, and 1514, the Brotherhood of Blackheads erected a tree for the holidays in their brotherhood house in Reval (now Tallinn). At the last night of the celebrations leading up to the holidays, the tree was taken to the Town Hall Square where the members of the brotherhood danced around it. In 1584, the pastor and chronicler Balthasar Russow wrote of an established tradition of setting up a decorated spruce at the market square where the young men “went with a flock of maidens and women, first sang and danced there and then set the tree aflame”. The Christmas tree became widely adopted by the Estonians themselves only in the 19th century.