Why We Put an Angel on Top of the Christmas Tree

The reason dates back to the very first Christmas.

If you celebrate Christmas, you've likely seen people top their Christmas trees with decorative angels. But have you ever wondered why we do this or how it became a Christmas tradition? And why an angel, and not just another ornament?

The History of Putting Angels at the Top of Christmas Trees

angel christmas tree topper

Kirsty Lee / EyeEm / Getty Images

It turns out, this practice comes from the original Christmas story. Angels play a significant part in the first Christmas: Angels visited Joseph and the Virgin Mary about the upcoming birth of Jesus, and on the night of his birth, angels appeared in the sky over Bethlehem to announce his arrival to the world.

Because angels appeared high in the sky on the first Christmas, people began placing angels high on the top of their trees as a way to celebrate the birth of Jesus. If you've ever seen a star on top of a Christmas tree, there's a similar significance: According to the Christmas story, in addition to angels, the star of Bethlehem (also called the Christmas star) appeared in the sky to guide people to baby Jesus.

Because there is so much religious significance in this tradition, it's been thought that placing an angel on top of the tree (and therefore declaring the family's faith) would also scare away evil spirits from the home around the holidays.

While it's not certain exactly when this tradition started, we do know it dates back several hundred years. It's said that the very first angels were homemade ornaments (usually made from natural, inexpensive materials like straw). By the 17th century, Europeans were making glass angel ornaments, which eventually became the full-size angels that sit on the top of the tree.

Tree Toppers Today

Today, it's still common to put an angel at the top of your Christmas tree—but people also use other symbols as tree toppers, including stars. Other popular tree topper ideas that aren't explicitly associated with the Christian Christmas story include ribbons, Christmas gnomes, snowmen, reindeer, snowflakes, Santas, and other wintery or Christmas symbols.

Whether you top it with an angel or a star, take a moment to reflect on the history of this tradition as you decorate your own Christmas tree this season.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles