Last night, as we were setting up and decorating our
Christmas tree, the question as to its origins was raised. Where did the use of the Christmas tree
begin, how and why was it incorporated into a Christian tradition? Now that’s a hotbed question. I quickly Googled The history of Christmas
Trees and was presented a variety of websites. A short history:
trees where used in many different cultures (Egyptian, Chinese, Hebrew, German,
Celtic, Vikings, etc.) to represent life, hope, and resurrection. Some used them as decoration, and others as
objects in worship.
(for the church) was established by the Emperor Justinian around December 25th
as Christian alternative to pagan festivals.
That’s right Jesus was probably born on another date, but no one knows
exactly, so the church has continued this practice.
Boniface, in the 17th
century, is said to have used the triangular
shape of the Fir tree to describe the Trinity.
By the 12th
century it was being hung, upside-down, from
ceilings at Christmastime as a symbol of Christianity.
1510, Martin Luther is said to have decorated a small Christmas tree with
candles, to show his children how the starts twinkled through the dark night.
didn’t like the Germans and did not copy their fashions, including the use of
Queen Victoria and her German Prince, albert made the use of the Christmas tree
Puritans, in the America, believed Christmas to be sacred and saw decorations,
Christmas carols, and trees as a mockery.
pesky Germans brought the Christmas tree tradition to America in the 18th
century in small German communities, which settled in Pennsylvania.
use of the Christmas tree was on the rise in 1890 and ornaments were arriving
from Germany to enhance the trees beauty.
the 1900’s the Christmas tree had become an icon representing everlasting life
and hope in the coming of Christ.
Christians adopt and adapt symbols for their own use? Hardline critics will say, NO! The use of pagan symbols is attuned to
idolatry, and we know what the Scriptures say about idolatry. Proponents don’t see God’s creation as the
exclusive right of pagans. New Age
followers use the rainbow as their symbol, but Christians know that it is a
symbol of the promise of God. Granted
there are no scriptures identifying an evergreen tree with eternal life, but
that doesn’t mean that Christians can’t use it as such. God chose many objects from creation to
represent or initiate conversations about his plans. He had the Israelites pile up rocks so that
when they passed by, and their children asked what they were for, the parents
would explain God’s grace in delivering them from Egypt. The
Christmas tree can be used, like St. Boniface, as a tool to talk about the
grace and hope we have in Christ.
I like a
good party, and like any good party the decorations enhance the celebration,
but aren’t its central focus. As long as
the decorations and symbols don’t overwhelm the worship and adoration of God in
Christ, then I say, “the more the merrier.”
I’m just saying…