After Queen Victoria died, the country went into mourning, and the tree somehow died with her for a while in many homes. People looked for simpler options and the artifical Christmas tree began to establish. These had originally been invented in Germany and were seen at the time as the environmental option. The principle of sustainable plantations and the problems surrounding the use of oil were not recognised at this time.
Germany had been the centre of all things Christmas, but after 1918, because of licensing and export problems, Germany was not able to export its decorations easily. The market was quickly taken up by Japan and America, especially in Christmas Tree lights.
Britain's Tom Smith Cracker Company which has exported Christmas goods for over three decades, began to manufacture trees themselves for a short while.
During the war, Christmas Trees were not permitted to be cut down and people wanted to protect their special decorations in safe metal boxes rather than risk them in an air raid. However, large trees were erected in public places to give moral to the people at this time.
Postwar Britain saw a revival of nostalgia again. People needed the security of Christmas, which is so unchanging in a changing world, as one of the symbols to set them back on their feet. Trees were as large as people could afford. The popular decorations were all produced by a British manufacturer, Swanbrand. and sold by FW Woolworth in Britain. Translucent plastic lock together shapes, Honeycomb paper Angels, 'glow-in the -dark icicles; also Polish glass balls and birds.
The mid-1960's saw another change. A new world was on the horizon, and modernist ideas were everywhere. Silver aluminium trees were imported from America. The 'Silver Pine' tree, patented in the 1950's, was designed to have a revolving light source under it, with coloured gelatine 'windows, which allowed the light to shine in different shades as it revolved under the tree. No decorations were needed for this tree.
Decorations became sparse. Glass balls and lametta created an 'elegant' modern tree. Of course, many families ignored fashion and carried on putting their own well loved decorations on their trees!
America made a return to Victorian nostalgia in the 1970's, and it was a good decade later that Britain followed the fashion. At first this was a refreshing look, and manufacturers realising the potential created more and more fantastic decorations. Some American companies specialised in antique replicas, actually finding the original makers in Europe to recreate wonderful glass ornaments, real silver tinsels and pressed foil 'Dresdens'.
Real Christmas Trees were popular, but many housewives preferred the convenience of the authentic looking artificial trees which were being manufactured. If your room was big enough, you could have a 14 foot artificial Spruce right there in your living room, without a single dropped needle – and so good that it fooled everyone at first glance. There are even pine scented sprays to put on the tree for that 'real tree smell'!
The new millennium has seen another shift in the Christmas tree story. More and more people have moved back to real trees. The combinations of newly recognised environmental benefits and low drop needle varieties have seen people once again enjoying the spirit of a real Christmas Tree.