Of all the traditions and symbols of Christmas, nothing is more enduring than the Christmas tree. Displayed in homes, public squares and office lobbies, the Christmas tree symbolizes the peace and joy of the season.

The first decorated Christmas tree was said to be in Riga, Latvia in 1510, 500 years ago. The story goes that men of the local merchants’ guild decorated a tree with artificial roses, danced around it in the marketplace and then set fire to it.

In the United States, the Christmas tree was introduced in the early 19th Century by German settlers. They quickly gained in popularity, and in 1851 Christmas trees began to be sold commercially in the United States. In 1901, the first Christmas tree farm began when W.V. McGalliard planted 25,000 Norway spruces on his farm in New Jersey.

Today, Christmas tree farming is a big business with 28.2 million farm-grown trees sold in 2009, at a value of $1.15 billion. Real Christmas trees are grown in all 50 states, with about 350,000 acres in production.