Growing Christmas trees is a long tradition for the Shealer family of Eastern Pennsylvania. One year, they even provided a tree for the Clinton White House.

“This has been a family business since 1945,” says Paul Shealer, owner of Evergreen Acres tree farm in Auburn, Pa. “We have grown over the years from what used to be a hobby.”

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, the first known decorated Christmas Tree made its appearance in Riga, Latvia, half a millennium ago, in 1510. Not much is known about it.

Five centuries later, 25 to 30 million trees are sold annually in the U.S. That’s a lot, but it’s far fewer than in Germany, where 50 million trees are cut annually, according to Rick Moore, owner of Moore Tree Farms in Groton, N.Y.

“I went over to Germany a year ago; the Christmas tree market is twice as large in Europe than the U.S.,” Moore said.

Interestingly, evergreens have no biblical ties to celebrating Christmas.

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