Mr and Mrs Parker from Chippenham, Wiltshire, have the world's oldest Christmas tree, a Victorian one dating from 1886.

In fact, it was Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, that started the Christmas Tree craze...a picture of the young Queen Victoria (then just 27 years old) and her husband and children around a Christmas Tree was made in 1846. The Germans were the first to use Christmas trees, but they didn't ebcome popular around the rest of the world until Victoria took a liking to them...

Its official: The oldest artifical Christmas tree in the world still going strong after 120 years

20th December 2007
Daily Mail

Festive Janet and Graham Parker get a taste of Christmas past every year with a 120-year-old imitation tree - the oldest in the world.

The tree - recognised by the Guinness Book of Records - cost just sixpence and has been handed down through Janet's family since 1886.

She was given the decoration, which is still in its original box, by her great aunt in the 1940s and it has taken pride of place in her living room at Christmas ever since.

Going strong: The artificial tree cost just sixpence and has been handed down through Janet's family since 1886

Family favourite: Janet Parker poses alongside the tree in 1967

It has taken pride of place in her living room at Christmas since for over 60 years

Janet, 69, said: "Christmas wouldn't be the same without it - I make sure it goes back in the box every year so it's kept in good condition.

"It has suffered a bit of wear and tear over time and is always a bit dusty when I get it down every year.

"It just amazes me to think it's been appearing every Christmas since Victorian times. But it is still such a lovely decoration.

"Lou, my great aunt, gave it to us as a present when I was very young."

The tree, which is made of green raffia, is about a foot high and has a base featuring cherubs, the Virgin Mary and Jesus.

"The typical reaction is 'Oh - is it as small as that?'," said Janet.

"Some have even asked if it's still growing, which considering its 120 years old, means it should be up through the roof!

"I love the little cherubs and the figures of the Virgin Mary and Jesus." Retired secretary Janet, of Chippenham, Wilts., said her family paid just sixpence for the tree hoping it would last for a few Christmases.

But her great aunt, Lou Hicks, was particularly fond of it and lovingly returned it to its original box every Twelfth Night.

Gift: Parker's great aunt Lou Hicks (pictured) gave her the tree in the 1940s

Janet and husband Graham, 85, treat the relic with equal respect and plan to pass the heirloom on to son Paul, 32, to continue the family tradition.

She added: "It's a treasured memory of childhood and, even though I changed my surname when I married, it will always be the Hicks family tree.

"My son Paul is determined to keep the family tradition going when the time comes.

"We decorate it with a few baubles and cake decoration candles - but of course we never light them just in case the whole tree catches light."

The tree was awarded the title of World's Oldest Christmas Tree after Guinness researchers confirmed its authenticity by studying old family photographs and letters.

A Guinness World Records spokesperson said: "We've seen trees which are 60 or 70-years-old, but this tree beats them hands down.

"We've verified the date through examining family letters."

The Christmas tree craze began in Britain during the reign of Queen Victoria, when in 1846 she was pictured with Prince Albert and their children standing round a tree.

Queen Victoria, aged 27, and her husband and children with Britain's first Christmas tree (Illustrated London News, 1846)

Victorian families preferred imitation trees as they could be reused and would not leave pine needles all over the carpet.

Doug and Olga Swift, of Chard, Somerset, still use the same tree given to them by her mother 59 years ago in 1948.