First Christmas Tree in a Church - Tours of Cleveland, LLC

First Christmas Tree in a Church

Christmas Tree in a Church

Back in 1851, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cleveland, OH became the first church in the United States to place a Christmas tree in the sanctuary. The church was located where Public Auditorium stands today.

Reverend Henry Schwan began his tenure that year and being of German descent was used to Christmas tree in his home and placed one in the church. It was decorated with candies, cookies, candles and a beautiful star from Germany. He thought nothing of this but some folks were not happy and word got out around town. “They are worshiping a shrub” at Zion!

Reverend Schwan began to do research and found that in other Christian countries is was not uncommon to place at Christmas tree in sanctuary. So he did it again next Christmas. The controversy died down, other churches put up trees and Reverend Schwan would remain the pastor for 30 years.

There is an historical marker on the mall downtown that honors this event. Reverend Schwan is buried in Lake View Cemetery and each Christmas a tree near his grave is decorated for Christmas.

The tree featured in this blog post is the tree from my church, West Park United Church of Christ.

Walking Tours in Cleveland

This is one the many Christmas Cleveland facts talked about on our Christmas walking tours. Other walking tours of downtown are offered year round. Learn more, see our schedule and book your walking tour at

The historical marker about the first Christmas tree in a church