From an Arizona tumbleweed tree to Rockefeller Center’s iconic (and giant) Norway spruce, Christmas trees in America are as diverse as the people who make up this country. Small and large, quirky and traditional, religious and secular, the trees erected in cities and towns across the United States reflect the communities they come from; and they’re so much more beautiful when seen together, like the sundry ornaments that decorate their branches each year.
The United States puts up some 40 million Christmas trees every year and, in 2011 alone, Americans spent over $3 billion on them, both real as well as artificial. The tradition of decorating a tree at Christmastime dates back to 16th-century Germany, and was popularized in English-speaking countries when Queen Victoria (and her German husband, Prince Albert) decorated Windsor Castle with a Christmas tree.
A popular magazine put the royal tree on their cover and, within a decade, the practice was widespread. The prevalence of Christmas trees was further boosted in the United States with the largescale arrival of German immigrants in the 19th century, who introduced the practice to new communities.
Once relegated to private spaces, public Christmas trees became common in the early 20th century, as governments, businesses, and communities began putting up their own trees. Whether they are erected by department stores (like Atlanta’s Great Tree), or even nations, like DC’s National Tree, these evergreens are often lit in late November or very early December.
Up until the 1950s, almost all Christmas trees were harvested from natural forests. Formal Christmas tree farms increased greatly in number after World War II, and helped shape (literally) what the trees looked like—producing denser trees in response to customer demand. Artificial trees became increasingly common as the 20th century continued, eventually eclipsing real trees in terms of dollars spent per year by American consumers.
But whatever your personal tree preference, it’s likely you’ll find it reflected here. From lobster traps to natural boughs, these are the most memorable trees in the United States.