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What is the meaning of a Christmas tree? Have you ever thought about it? Well, I have, so let’s talk about the origin of the Christmas tree.
Who Began to Decorate Christmas Trees First?
Have you ever wondered what the meaning of a Christmas tree is, why we decorate it, and how it came to be? There are many different stories about how the Christmas tree tradition started, but the earliest stories of Christmas trees go all the way back to BCE times.
All the way back in 1300 BCE, ancient Egyptians covered evergreens with decorations to mark the start of the winter solstice. The evergreen trees reminded them that as the time of daylight increased, the more abundant their crops would be.
In Ancient Rome, they decorated evergreens to mark the beginning of the winter solstice.
During the 5th century CE, people in Eastern Europe would decorate their doors with evergreens to keep away evil spirits.
Who Was Boniface and What Role Did He Play on Christmas Trees?
The practice of decorating evergreens to keep away evil spirits continued for about 7 centuries when a missionary from Britain, St. Boniface, came to Germany. When St. Boniface saw that they were about to begin a sacrifice of a small child to Thor, the Norse God, he cut down their holy tree: A Thunder Oak, representing Thor.
The people were in disbelief, for it was supposed to be impossible to cut down the Thunder Tree of Thor.
St. Boniface then grabbed a small fir tree and according to Catholic.com said, “This little tree, a young child of the forest, shall be your holy tree tonight. It is the wood of peace… It is the sign of an endless life, for its leaves are evergreen. See how it points upward to heaven. Let this be called the tree of the Christ-child; gather about it, not in the wildwood, but in your own homes; there it will shelter no deeds of blood, but loving gifts and rites of kindness.”
He then went on about how the people should surround the tree with gifts and fill it with kindness. The Germans, amazed by Boniface’s preaching, proceeded to get baptized.
Legend has it that the little fir tree that Boniface presented to the German’s was the first tree with its roots in Christian teachings.
How Did the Christmas Tree Originate in America?
After Boniface traveled to Germany and preached to them about Christianity, the Catholic custom of celebrating the birth of Jesus then spread throughout Germany. Then, in the 18th century, German immigrants brought this custom into the new world.
When the German settlers brought this idea into America, not everybody welcomed it because of its non-Christian origins. Nobody seemed to understand this simple question: What is the meaning of a Christmas tree?
William Bradford, the pilgrim’s second governor, wrote how he was against the “pagan origins” of the Christmas tree. Then, a popular writer and British political leader named Oliver Cromwell preached against the “heathen traditions” of carols, decorations on trees, and any other joyful expression that desecrated the event.
Next, the General Court of Massachusetts banned the holiday of Christmas in May of 1659, making it a legal offense, and anyone seen with hung decorations would be fined.
This ban lasted until about the 19th century when immigrants from Europe eroded the old pagan beliefs of the holiday. Finally, on June 25, 1870, Christmas was declared a national holiday in the United States.
Next, in 1889, President Benjamin Harrison decorated the first white house Christmas tree. In 1929, First Lady Lou Hoover announced decorating the White House Christmas Tree to be a national affair.
In the following years, the First Lady was responsible for decorating the White House Christmas Tree.
Why Do We Decorate Christmas Trees Today?
How did decorating evergreen trees for Christmas really begin? Although there is no sure answer, there are many stories that tell how this became.
During ancient times, pagans and Romans used to decorate evergreens to mark the winter solstice. They did this so they would think about the coming of spring and the abundance of crops that would come along with it as the dreary winter dragged on.
During the 5th century, a legend tells that there was a beautiful evergreen trimmed with white flowers displayed at Riga, Latvia. The tree was decorated with cookies and fruits, which became presents for families. Today, a plaque standing in front of this tree reads, “The First New Year’s tree Riga, 1510.”
In Eastern Europe, Christmas trees and New Year’s trees were the same.
Another story says that Martin Luther, a German preacher and important religious figure in the Protestant Reformation, was walking home one night and was awed by the beauty of a decorated fir tree sitting inside of a store. He wanted the share the sight with his children, so he brought a fir tree home and decorated it with his kids.
By the 17th century, decorations and candles became very popular tree trimmers. At this time, German’s decorated Christmas trees with fruit and nuts.
After decorations came int the United States, people began to place gifts underneath their Christmas trees.
In the late 19th century, Americans became fascinated with ornaments. Around that time, angels and stars became very popular tree toppers.
What Does a Christmas Tree Represent?
Really, what is the meaning of a Christmas tree? Christmas trees are used to represent the start of the winter solstice to pagans. In Paganism, Christmas trees symbolized life, rebirth, and stamina to endure the harsh winter months.
Norse and Scandinavian people also decorated evergreens to mar the winter solstice. They burned fir trees to symbolize that life still stirs even in the most brutal of winters. It also marks the beginning of a new year and the ending of an old one.
Paganists believe that evil spirits were at their strongest during the winter solstice. They thought that putting up evergreens would keep them away as symbols of protection.
They lit up the evergreens with candles to represent lighting up the darkest moments and keeping away evil spirits.
In the 1800s, Christians began to symbolize Christmas trees as the Tree of Life.
Early Christians put apples and candles on their Christmas trees. The apples represent the apples on the Paradise tree that Adam and Eve ate. The candles signify the light of Jesus Christ.
In 2004, Pope John Paul called Christmas trees a symbol of Christ. He said, “This very custom exalts the value of life, as in winter what is evergreen becomes a sign of undying life and reminds Christians as the ‘Tree of Life.'”
Now, Christmas trees have become a sign of peace and good-will towards men.
Also, St. Boniface said that the evergreen’s triangular shape represents the Holy Trinity, its top points towards heaven and that it is the tree of Christ the child. This really tells what the meaning of a Christmas tree is.
What is the Meaning of a Christmas Tree in the bible?
In the Bible, there is no specified mentioning of the Christmas tree, but it may have been referred to in other ways.
During the Bible verse Jeremiah 10:3-4, it says, “For the practices of the people are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; then they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field, their idols cannot speak; it must be carried… They are all senseless and foolish; they are taught by worthless wooden idols.”
In these verses, Jeremiah is saying that Christmas trees, or idols, are useless and have no meaning. He is saying that they are just an object and that we should be praising God and not an inanimate object.
There are many other verses in the bible that may relate to Christmas trees. Other verses compare Christmas trees to metaphors that represent life.
For example, Genesis 2:9 says, “In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” This may represent that Christmas trees represent the Paradise tree in the bible. Also, Christmas trees may symbolize in your life, you can choose a good path or an evil path.
In Jeremiah 3:6, it says, “During the reign of King Josiah, the Lord said to me, ‘Have you seen what faithful Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and committed adultery there.'” The meaning of a Christmas tree can also relate to whether you choose to follow the ten commandments or not.
What Type of Tree is a Christmas Tree?
In the ancient Pagan and Roman times, they used evergreen trees to decorate with.
Later, in the 1800s, feather trees became very popular.
These trees were followed by trees of aluminum or plastic. Also, people started to buy artificial trees with lights already put on them.
Still, the old evergreen fir tree is favored by many people who decorate with Christmas trees.
There are many different types of Christmas trees, including the South Pine, Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir, Balsam Fir, Colorado Blue Spruce, and Eastern White Pine.
Farmers grow these Christmas trees for several months a year. The United States has more than 21,000 Christmas tree farms, which each employ over 100,00 workers. Over 500,000 acres of land are planted with Christmas tree seeds.
Fun Facts About Christmas Trees!
1. The tallest recorded Christmas tree is a 221-foot tall Douglas Fir that was displayed at the Northage shopping center during 1950 in Seattle, Washington.
2. About 98% of all-natural Christmas trees are made on Christmas tree farms.
3. During the Revolutionary War, the German and British soldiers danced around a lit Christmas tree, which is said to have caused a distraction for George Washington to cross the Delaware River.
4. In old Eastern Europe, the people used to hang Christmas trees upside down!
5. Artificial trees actually originated in Germany!
6. In 1882 Edward Johnson made the first string of Christmas tree lights.
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I hope you learned some things about the origin of the Christmas tree. Make sure to go check out the history of the colors of Christmas.