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At Christmastime in 1510, in the Latvian capital of Riga, a tree was decorated with paper ornaments and used in the holiday celebration. At the culmination of the holiday, the tree was tossed in a bonfire and burned.
The Latvians claim that was the first Christmas tree ever.
A few years later, in Germany, Martin Luther decorated a tree with candles, and the idea of a Christmas tree began spreading from Germany into other parts of Europe.
Trees have been used as part of ritual celebrations since pagan times. The fir tree was adopted by early Christians, probably because its triangular shape recalled the Trinity which is a central theme of Christianity. Fir trees often were hung from the ceiling, upside down, as part of religious worship. But until the Latvians got the idea, those trees were not decorated or associated specifically with Christmas.
Although much medieval lore is subject to question, Latvia's claim to the first Christmas tree is widely accepted. The International Christmas Archives, for example, credits the Latvians with originating the Christmas tree.
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