The custom was further developed in early modern Germany where German Protestant Christians brought decorated trees into their homes.  It acquired popularity beyond the Lutheran areas of Germany and the Baltic governorates 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".
 Today, there is a wide variety of traditional and modern ornaments, such as garlands, baubles, tinsel, and candy canes.  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. Its 16th-century origins are sometimes associated with Protestant Christian reformer Martin Luther, who is said to have first added lighted candles to an evergreen tree.
At the end of the Middle Ages, an early predecessor appears referred in the 15th century Regiment of the Cistercian Alcobaça Monastery in Portugal.  According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, "The use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands to symbolize eternal life was a custom of the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. It is commonly believed that ancient Romans used to decorate their houses with evergreen trees to celebrate Saturnalia, although there are no historical records of that.  In the poem Epithalamium by Catullus, he tells of the gods decorating the home of Peleus with trees, including laurel and cypress.  The story of Saint Boniface cutting down Donar's Oak illustrates the pagan practices in 8th century among the Germans. A later folk version of the story adds the detail that an evergreen tree grew in place of the felled oak, telling them about how its triangular shape reminds humanity of the Trinity and how it points to heaven.
Customs of erecting decorated trees in winter time can be traced to Christmas celebrations in Renaissance-era guilds in Northern Germany and Livonia. In Livonia (present-day Estonia and Latvia), in 1441, 1442, 1510, and 1514, the Brotherhood of Blackheads erected a tree for the holidays in their guild houses in Reval (now Tallinn) and Riga.
On 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. A Bremen guild chronicle of 1570 reports that a small tree decorated with "apples, nuts, dates, pretzels, and paper flowers" was erected in the guild-house for the benefit of the guild members' children, who collected the dainties on Christmas Day.
 In 1584, the pastor and chronicler Balthasar Russow in his Chronica der Provinz Lyfflandt (1584) 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". This transition from the guild hall to the bourgeois family homes in the Protestant parts of Germany ultimately gives rise to the modern tradition as it developed in the 18th and 19th centuries.
In Poland, there is a folk tradition dating back to an old Slavic pre-Christian custom of suspending a branch of fir, spruce, or pine from the ceiling rafters, called podłaźniczka, during the time of the Koliada winter festival. In more recent times, the decorations also included colored paper cutouts (wycinanki), wafers, cookies, and Christmas baubles. The custom was practiced by the peasants until the early 20th century, particularly in the regions of Lesser Poland and Upper Silesia.
Beginning in the mid-19th century, the tradition over time was almost completely replaced by the later German practice of decorating a standing Christmas tree. In Denmark a Danish newspaper claims that the first attested Christmas tree was lit in 1808 by countess Wilhemine of Holsteinborg. By the early 18th century, the custom had become common in towns of the upper Rhineland, but it had not yet spread to rural areas.
Along the lower Rhine, an area of Roman Catholic majority, the Christmas tree was largely regarded as a Protestant custom. As a result, it remained confined to the upper Rhineland for a relatively long period of time.
The custom did eventually gain wider acceptance beginning around 1815 by way of Prussian officials who emigrated there following the Congress of Vienna.
Only at the start of the 20th century did Christmas trees appear inside churches, this time in a new brightly lit form. German brewer Peter Luelsdorf brought the first Christmas tree of the current tradition to Slovenia in 1845. After World War II during Yugoslavia period, trees set in the public places (towns, squares, and markets) were politically replaced with fir trees, a symbol of socialism and Slavic mythology strongly associated with loyalty, courage, and dignity.
However, spruce retained its popularity in Slovenian homes during those years and came back to public places after independence. The German-born Queen Charlotte introduced a Christmas tree at a party she gave for children in 1800. After Victoria's marriage to her German cousin Prince Albert, by 1841 the custom became even more widespread as wealthier middle-class families followed the fashion.
In 1842 a newspaper advert for Christmas trees makes clear their smart cachet, German origins and association with children and gift-giving.
 On 2 January 1846 Elizabeth Fielding (née Fox Strangways) wrote from Lacock Abbey to William Henry Fox-Talbot: "Constance is extremely busy preparing the Bohemian Xmas Tree.  In 1847 Prince Albert wrote: "I must now seek in the children an echo of what Ernest [his brother] and I were in the old time, of what we felt and thought; and their delight in the Christmas trees is not less than ours used to be".
By 1856 a northern provincial newspaper contained an advert alluding casually to them, as well as reporting the accidental death of a woman whose dress caught fire as she lit the tapers on a Christmas tree.  They had not yet spread down the social scale though, as a report from Berlin in 1858 contrasts the situation there where "Every family has its own" with that of Britain, where Christmas trees were still the preserve of the wealthy or the "romantic".
 Anti-German sentiment after World War I briefly reduced their popularity but the effect was short-lived, and by the mid-1920s the use of Christmas trees had spread to all classes.
Chichilakis are most common in the Guria and Samegrelo regions of Georgia near the Black Sea, but they can also be found in some stores around the capital of Tbilisi.
The earliest reference of Christmas trees being used in The Bahamas dates to January 1864 and is associated with the Anglican Sunday Schools in Nassau, New Providence: "After prayers and a sermon from the Rev. The tree was ornamented with gifts for the children who formed a circle about it and sung the song "Oats and Beans".
The tradition was introduced to North America in the winter of 1781 by Hessian soldiers stationed in the Province of Québec (1763–1791) to garrison the colony against American attack. The Christmas tree became very common in the United States of America in the early nineteenth century.
 The first published image of a Christmas tree appeared in 1836 as the frontispiece to The Stranger's Gift by Hermann Bokum. The first mention of the Christmas tree in American literature was in a story in the 1836 edition of The Token and Atlantic Souvenir, titled "New Year's Day", by Catherine Maria Sedgwick, where she tells the story of a German maid decorating her mistress's tree. Godey's copied it exactly, except for the removal of the Queen's tiara and Prince Albert's moustache, to remake the engraving into an American scene.  The republished Godey's image became the first widely circulated picture of a decorated evergreen Christmas tree in America.
Art historian Karal Ann Marling called Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, shorn of their royal trappings, "the first influential American Christmas tree".  Folk-culture historian Alfred Lewis Shoemaker states, "In all of America there was no more important medium in spreading the Christmas tree in the decade 1850–60 than Godey's Lady's Book". President Benjamin Harrison and his wife Caroline put up the first White House Christmas tree in 1889.  Other accounts credit Charles Follen, a German immigrant to Boston, for being the first to introduce to America the custom of decorating a Christmas tree.
 August Imgard, a German immigrant living in Wooster, Ohio, is said to be the first to popularize the practice of decorating a tree with candy canes.  In 1847, Imgard cut a blue spruce tree from a woods outside town, had the Wooster village tinsmith construct a star, and placed the tree in his house, decorating it with paper ornaments, gilded nuts and Kuchen.
 German immigrant Charles Minnigerode accepted a position as a professor of humanities at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1842, where he taught Latin and Greek. Entering into the social life of the Virginia Tidewater, Minnigerode introduced the German custom of decorating an evergreen tree at Christmas at the home of law professor St. George Tucker, thereby becoming another of many influences that prompted Americans to adopt the practice at about that time.  An 1853 article on Christmas customs in Pennsylvania defines them as mostly "German in origin", including the Christmas tree, which is "planted in a flower pot filled with earth, and its branches are covered with presents, chiefly of confectionary, for the younger members of the family."
The article distinguishes between customs in different states however, claiming that in New England generally "Christmas is not much celebrated", whereas in Pennsylvania and New York it is.
Under the state atheism of the Soviet Union, the Christmas tree, along with the entire celebration of the Christian holiday, was banned in that country after the October Revolution. However, the government then introduced a New-year spruce (Russian: Новогодняя ёлка, romanized: Novogodnyaya yolka) in 1935 for the New Year holiday.
Decorations, such as figurines of airplanes, bicycles, space rockets, cosmonauts, and characters of Russian fairy tales, were produced. This tradition persists after the fall of the USSR, with the New Year holiday outweighing the Christmas (7 January) for a wide majority of Russian people. An early example of public Christmas tree for the children of unemployed parents in Prague Czech Republic ), 1931 The use of fire retardant allows many indoor public areas to place real trees and be compliant with code. President Jimmy Carter lit only the crowning star atop the tree in 1979 in honor of the Americans being held hostage in Iran. During most of the 1970s and 1980s, the largest decorated Christmas tree in the world was put up every year on the property of the National Enquirer in Lantana, Florida.
This tradition grew into one of the most spectacular and celebrated events in the history of southern Florida, but was discontinued on the death of the paper's founder in the late 1980s. After the signing of the Armistice in 1918 the city of Manchester sent a tree, and £500 to buy chocolate and cakes, for the children of the much-bombarded town of Lille in northern France.  In some cases the trees represent special commemorative gifts, such as in Trafalgar Square in London, where the City of Oslo, Norway presents a tree to the people of London as a token of appreciation for the British support of Norwegian resistance during the Second World War; in Boston, where the tree is a gift from the province of Nova Scotia, in thanks for rapid deployment of supplies and rescuers to the 1917 ammunition ship explosion that leveled the city of Halifax; and in Newcastle upon Tyne, where the main civic Christmas tree is an annual gift from the city of Bergen, in thanks for the part played by soldiers from Newcastle in liberating Bergen from Nazi occupation.
Both setting up and taking down a Christmas tree are associated with specific dates; liturgically, this is done through the hanging of the greens ceremony.  It is customary for Christians in many localities to remove their Christmas decorations on the last day of the twelve days of Christmastide that falls on 5 January—Epiphany Eve (Twelfth Night), although those in other Christian countries remove them on Candlemas, the conclusion of the extended Christmas-Epiphany season (Epiphanytide). The first decorated trees were adorned with apples, white candy canes and pastries in the shapes of stars, hearts and flowers.
The popularity of these decorations fueled the production of glass figures made by highly skilled artisans with clay molds. Baubles are another common decoration, consisting of small hollow glass or plastic spheres coated with a thin metallic layer to make them reflective, with a further coating of a thin pigmented polymer in order to provide coloration.
The earliest legend of the origin of a fir tree becoming a Christian symbol dates back to 723 AD, involving Saint Boniface as he was evangelizing Germany.
 It is said that at a pagan gathering in Geismar where a group of people dancing under a decorated oak tree were about to sacrifice a baby in the name of Thor, Saint Boniface took an axe and called on the name of Jesus. Virginia pine is still available on some tree farms in the southeastern United States; however, its winter color is faded. The long-needled eastern white pine is also used there, though it is an unpopular Christmas tree in most parts of the country, owing also to its faded winter coloration and limp branches, making decorating difficult with all but the lightest ornaments.
Norfolk Island pine is sometimes used, particularly in Oceania, and in Australia, some species of the genera Casuarina and Allocasuarina are also occasionally used as Christmas trees. Adenanthos sericeus or Albany woolly bush is commonly sold in southern Australia as a potted living Christmas tree. Hemlock species are generally considered unsuitable as Christmas trees due to their poor needle retention and inability to support the weight of lights and ornaments. Some trees, frequently referred to as "living Christmas trees", are sold live with roots and soil, often from a plant nursery, to be stored at nurseries in planters or planted later outdoors and enjoyed (and often decorated) for years or decades. However, when done improperly, the combination of root loss caused by digging, and the indoor environment of high temperature and low humidity is very detrimental to the tree's health; additionally, the warmth of an indoor climate will bring the tree out of its natural winter dormancy, leaving it little protection when put back outside into a cold outdoor climate. Often Christmas trees are a large attraction for living animals, including mice and spiders.
 These "trees" were made using goose feathers that were dyed green, as one response by Germans to continued deforestation.  Often, the tree branches were tipped with artificial red berries which acted as candle holders.
 Most modern artificial Christmas trees are made from plastic recycled from used packaging materials, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Upside-down artificial Christmas trees became popular for a short time and were originally introduced as a marketing gimmick; they allowed consumers to get closer to ornaments for sale in retail stores and opened up floor space for more products.  Users of artificial Christmas trees assert that they are more convenient, and, because they are reusable, much cheaper than their natural alternative. Live trees are typically grown as a crop and replanted in rotation after cutting, often providing suitable habitat for wildlife.
 In some cases management of Christmas tree crops can result in poor habitat since it sometimes involves heavy input of pesticides. about people cutting down old and rare conifers, such as the Keteleeria evelyniana and Abies fraseri, for Christmas trees. Real or cut trees are used only for a short time, but can be recycled and used as mulch, wildlife habitat, or used to prevent erosion.  Real trees are carbon-neutral, they emit no more carbon dioxide by being cut down and disposed of than they absorb while growing.
An independent life-cycle assessment study, conducted by a firm of experts in sustainable development, states that a natural tree will generate 3.1 kg (6.8 lb) of greenhouse gases every year (based on purchasing 5 km (3.1 mi) from home) whereas the artificial tree will produce 48.3 kg (106 lb) over its lifetime. Most artificial trees are made of recycled PVC rigid sheets using tin stabilizer in the recent years.
 The use of lead stabilizer in Chinese imported trees has been an issue of concern among politicians and scientists over recent years.  A 2008 United States Environmental Protection Agency report found that as the PVC in artificial Christmas trees aged it began to degrade. A 1931 edition of the Soviet magazine Bezbozhnik, distributed by the League of Militant Atheists, depicting an Orthodox Christian priest being forbidden to cut down a tree for Christmas