Christmas Tree Skirts: A Secret History

Easy Ruched Christmas Tree Skirt

DIY Christmas tree skirts are hugely popular during the holidays. They’re functional, decorative, and add a little extra something to the living room decorations. Christmas home dec projects are among my favorite homemade gifts to make for newlyweds, rather than just purchasing them a new blender from their registry. It’s a great unexpected gift idea that people love; building up a collection of Christmas decorations can be expensive, and it’s nice to have ornaments and decor that is tied to a memory.

I love to learn about the history behind traditions, so as I was updating AllFreeSewing with new Christmas projects this week, I found myself adding a bunch of new Christmas Tree Skirt patterns and got to thinking: where on earth did the tradition of tree skirts come from?

The Early Days

German Merry Christmas

I did a little research and as it turns out, tree skirts actually have a pretty storied history! Though their exact origins are still unknown, historians believe that Christmas tree skirts were likely invented in Germany (also the birthplace of general tree decorating).

In those days, trees were decorated with actual candles. In order to prevent a little Christmas bonfire from breaking out in the living room, families would put a mat under the base of the tree. The mat served to collect wax and fallen needles as well. These mats weren’t at all decorative; in fact, they were rarely more than just a piece of fabric placed beneath the tree, to be washed and recycled at the end of the holiday.

Tree Skirts Get A Makeover

Christmas Miracle Tree Skirt

The earliest recorded use of a Christmas tree stand as we use them today was in 1879, and the tree mat evolved into the tree skirt, which did double-duty collecting wax and leaves while obscuring the unsightly tree stand. It was during this time that Christmas tree skirts began to become more ornate and decorative. Families began to embroider or quilt their tree skirts to match their home decor.

At this point, tree skirts also served as the location of additional tree decorations like a nativity scene or Christmas village. As Christmas tradition evolved and gifts were placed under the tree instead of being hung upon it, the tree skirt became an important place for gifts to be arranged. Usually gifts were hung on the tree in early December and then added around the skirt on Christmas Eve.

Ho Ho Ho Tree Skirt

Modern Christmas Tree Skirts

Today, skirts are mostly used as decorative ways to hide the tree stand. Most nativity scened and Christmas villages have moved elsewhere in the house, and gifts are piled up under the tree from day one. However, over a century of sewing tree skirts has given the internet a plethora of great homemade Christmas tree skirt ideas and tutorials. So with your new knowledge of its long past, sew a beautiful new skirt to add to your own family’s Christmas tradition with one of these ten festive free DIY Christmas tree skirt patterns!

  1. Ho Ho Ho Tree Skirt
  2. Easy Ruched Christmas Tree Skirt
  3. Christmas Miracle Tree Skirt
  4. Christmas Tree Skirt with a Scalloped Edge
  5. Simply Quilted Patchwork Tree Skirt
  6. Whitney’s Drop Cloth Tree Skirt
  7. Christmas Tree Skirt
  8. ‘Tis the Season Christmas Tree Skirt
  9. Two Tiered Luxe Christmas Tree Skirt
  10. Super Easy Mini Christmas Tree Skirt

Handmade Leather Bags & Accessories Book GiveawayPLUS! Want some extra presents under your tree this year? You can win a copy of Handmade Leather Bags & Accessories from AllFreeSewing and Design Originals and make tons of cute bags and more! Enter to win once a day, every day until November 25th right here!

Do you have any Christmas traditions with interesting histories?


  1. Lauren Reiniger says

    I’m glad you gave the history for this Christmas tradition. One of my fears about Christmastime is that it’s becoming all about the presents and we forget why we do certain things. My family has a tradition relating to what goes under our tree. When we were young, my brother and I drew a picture of what we imagined the Nativity scene to look like. Our parents rolled it up and tied a gold ribbon around the paper. This is the first thing we open every year, since it symbolizes the real meaning of Christmas.

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