Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Christmas Tree

The Christmas Tree

Ah, the Christmas tree! The center piece in homes and communities throughout the land, whether they are green, silver, white, red, blue or pink, there they stand with their lights in the dark night shining and gleaming and sparkling so bright. I can hear the carolers singing now:

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure doth thou bring me!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure doth thou bring me!
For every year the Christmas tree,
Brings to us all both joy and glee.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure doth thou bring me!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!
Each bough doth hold its tiny light,
That makes each toy to sparkle bright.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!

Ah, yes, the Christmas tree can bring such joy and glee during the holiday season. My aim in this article is to look beyond the lights and tinsel of the Christmas tree and look at the origin of the tree and even how other religions had a tree as part of their customs.

The earliest origin of the “Christmas tree” comes from the fable of “St. Boniface”, who allegedly destroyed the great oak of Jupiter at Geismar in Hesse, Germany and supposedly built of the wood a chapel to “St. Peter.” The legend says that while traveling through northern Germany Boniface found a group of heathens at their sacred oak preparing to sacrifice and cut down the tree. As the fable grew, the oak allegedly fell, not without protest, and instantly a young fir tree appeared! Winfrid (Boniface) told the heathens that the fir was the “tree of life” and represented Christ! [1]

Yet another source tells us a little more on this story.

Tradition credits Saint Boniface with the invention of the Christmas tree. The Oak of Thor at Geismar was chopped down by Boniface in a stage-managed confrontation with the old gods and local heathen tribes. A fir tree growing in the roots of the Oak was claimed by Boniface as a new symbol. "This humble tree's wood is used to build your homes: let Christ be at the centre of your households. Its leaves remain evergreen in the darkest days: let Christ be your constant light. Its boughs reach out to embrace and its top points to heaven: let Christ be your Comfort and Guide." [2][3]

Thus, one of the first historical accounts of a so-called “Christian” missionary adapting pagan beliefs concerning tree worship into some form of “Christianity” is preserved.

The pagans were delighted to believe in this new myth, which is an almost identical replica of the ancient fable concerning the cutting down of a huge oak representing the life and death of Nimrod (Tammuz, or the sun god), and the idea that a young tree sprang out of the ancient log overnight, thus representing the rebirth or reincarnation of Nimrod as “Tammuz” or the god of the sun! [4]

Because the people in Scandinavia were tree worshipers, it was only natural that evergreen trees, their boughs and other evergreen plants (such as holly tree, ivy and the like) should become part of their early “Christian festivals”. [5]

In this fashion, the growing universal church allowed massive numbers of pagans and heathens to come right into the so-called “Christian” religion, while retaining their ancient superstitions, festivals and objects of worship! [6]

Suzanne Lieurance claims Christmas trees used to be hung upside down from the ceiling beams and that Martin Luther is to be credited with adding lights to the tree and placing it upright and decorated. [7]

The decorated Christmas tree may have originated with Martin Luther. Legend has it that he was walking home one evening when he noticed the stars shining brilliantly through some trees. It seemed like the stars had settled on the boughs themselves. He cut down a small tree, took it home and placed small candles in metal holders on the branches. [8]

From this meager beginning, the Christmas tree developed, complete with ornaments, garlands, colored light, etc. German Lutherans brought the tree custom to America, much to the consternation of early puritans. Both in England and New England, the Puritans were successful in banning such remnants of the Saturnalia from public view. But eventually the Christmas tree, stocking and Santa Claus (borrowed from the Dutch) became thoroughly entrenched in the American “holiday” tradition. [9]

Greek philosophers like Aristotle and Plutarch believed trees possessed reason like human beings and taught that they had perception and passion!!! [10]

Ancient tree worshiper believed that when the tree suffered, withered or was injured in some way, a man’s life, connected to the tree, also suffered sickness, or even death. [11]

Like the black arts of witchcraft and voodoo, in which it is supposed the piercing of a doll with pins can bring about the affliction of an individual far distant from doll, tree worshipers believed there was a real interconnection between human life and trees. [12]

It was believed possible to transfer disease or sickness from men to trees. Bits of hair, nail clippings, clothing and or personal items of the sick person would be affixed to the tree, or even inserted into a hole in the trunk. Sometimes, the tree would be split, and the patient actually passed through the opening! If the tree survived, it was supposed that the patient would too! [13]

Customs have been preserved in practically every part of the world of hanging objects upon trees in order to establish some relationship between the gift giver and the tree. [14]

In the 19th century Europe, food, rags and other objects tied to the branches of tree by prayers. [15]

In India, a demonized person plants a tree nearby to ward off the demons as well as hanging rags forming shrines of their deities. [16]

In early America, Nebraskans believed hanging objects on the braches of trees propitiated supernatural beings, procured good weather and insured good hunting! [17]

Many Arabs had sacred trees that they believed were haunted by angels or the “Jinn”. They even sacrificed to these trees and even slept under them for health, believing that they would receive their prescription “in their dreams”!!! [18]

In early Buddhism, it was decided that threes had neither reason, or thought and could be cut down, however they still believed that the trees could be inhabited by spirits. [19]

Trees were planted around graves in ancient Greece and in Roman tradition planted groves of trees were associated with the vaunted dead. [20]

From Asia, across the land bridge to Alaska and the Yukon, came tree worshipers, who believed their sacred trees contained the spirits of all sorts of gods and carved intricate caricatures of frogs, snakes, men and spirits, eagles and other creatures into the trunks of their trees, even adorning them with wings, legs and other appendages, setting them upright around their villages as their sacred “totem poles”, or Ashera! [21]

In the Old Testament, the races disinherited by the Israelites, in the Hivites, Amalakites, Amorites, Perizites, Philistines and others worshiped under the groves. [22]

Check out the following scriptures: 1 Kings 15, 16, 18, 2 Kings 17, 21, 23 and 2 Chronicles 15.

Be sure to check out my “must read” article on Jeremiah chapter 10. The popular chapter used by many as a proof text that Christmas trees are condemned and of pagan origin and that by having one, one is learning the ways of the heathen.

Here is yet some more information on the Christmas tree, and no doubt there is probably even more out there. Some of it I brought up earlier in the article, but most of it I have not.

As William Muir Auld (in Christmas Traditions) said: “The graceful custom of the use of evergreens has its roots in the profound reverence of the Ancients for all natural phenomena.” To their simple and unartifical minds, Nature was everywhere alive. Every fountain had its spirit, every mountain its deity, and every water, grove, and meadow, its supernatural associations. The whisperings of the trees through their leafy boughs was the subtle speech of the god who dwelt within, while the sound of the waves breaking over the pebbly beach was the joyous laughter of the divinities of the sea."

It is believed that the use of "ornaments" on trees dates back to Roman days when it was common to hang little masks of Bacchus upon trees and vines to impart fertility to every side of the trees to which the wind turned the faces. Virgil (in Notes and Queries, Dec 16 1865), refers to these dangling objects as oscilla and describes how a pine tree is laden with them.

The use of evergreens was so closely associated with the garlands of pagan days that in many of the early church celebrations they were forbidden. For instance, Bishop Martin of Bracae, in 575 forbade the use of all greenry and "other dangerous Calend customs." It was therefore not until the sixteenth century that Christian houses were commonly decorated. In many European countries Fir trees were put up in rooms and adorned with roses cut from many colored papers, with apples and leafgold and sweets. Perhaps this decoration was reminiscent of the old beliefs that many trees bloomed at Christmastime. (Christmas Facts And Fancies)

Most point to the fable of "St. Boniface" who while traveling through northern Germany, found a group of heathens at their sacred oak preparing to sacrifice little Prince Asulf to their god, Jupiter. St. Boniface stopped the sacrifice and cut down the tree. As the fable grew, the oak allegedly fell, not without protest, and instantly a young fir tree appeared. St. Boniface told the heathens that the fir was the "tree of life" and represented Christ.

As early as the 17th century, Germans had transformed this pagan symbol of fertility into a Christian symbol of rebirth. According to legend, the Christmas tree tradition began with the founder of German Protestantism, Martin Luther. While walking through the forest on Christmas Eve, Luther was so moved by the beauty of the starlit fir trees that he brought one indoors and decorated it with candles to remind his children of God’s creation. In 1841 Prince Albert of Germany gave his wife, Queen Victoria of England, a gift of a Christmas tree. This was reputedly the first Christmas tree in England, but the custom spread quickly. (

The use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands as symbols of eternal life was common among the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. (Encyclopedia Britannica)

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, "The Christian symbol can be traced to a German medieval play about Adam and Eve, which included the “paradise tree,” hung with apples."

The lights (fire and light from candles) on the Christmas tree were once symbols of the sun-god. (Barbara Cooney, Christmas)

Although God’s Word condemns these heathen rituals and customs, Americans still seem to be devoid of understanding. Instead of obeying God’s Word they continue to practice because of family memories, and good feelings, not to mention that they don’t want their children to feel left out of all the fun associated with Christmas.

[1] Ron Hyre, series on Fables, Myths, Customs and Traditions
[2] Saint Boniface of Crediton –
[3] Credition UK National Shrine of St. Boniface. "Boniface of Crediton". Retrieved on 2006-12-08. –
[4] Ron Hyre, series on Fables, Myths, Customs and Traditions
[5] Ibid
[6] Ibid
[7] Cogwriter quoting Lieurance, Suzanne. The First Christmas Tree Lights. The Junto Society, 2002 –
[8] David Ingraham, Pagan Traditions
[9] Ibid
[10] Ron Hyre, series on Fables, Myths, Customs and Traditions

No comments: