Christmas tree customs

When I do my Christmas decorating I like to think of the meaning behind all the Christmas ornaments.

The angel for the angels that told the shepherds the Saviour was born, the Star that led the wise men to the stable and even the candy cane, the shape representing the staffs of the shepherds and the color red representing the blood of Jesus. 

I was always puzzled about the color green thinking that yes, it was the colour of the tree but I was never sure what a tree could have to do with the birth of Christ.

The tree is everywhere, in town squares, in public buildings and nearly every home has a tree of some sort. I was always curious about where and when did this custom start and why.

This year I decided to find out and went on the internet. I found pages and pages of sites telling about the legend and meaning of the Christmas tree.

This symbol has been around a lot longer than a person would think. 

The Romans decorated their homes with the evergreen branches because the green of the needles symbolized life during winter. It was first believed to be a pagan custom until the Christians decided to adopt it.

The earliest Christian claim that I found was in the eighth century. St. Boniface, a Christian missionary established the fir as a sacred tree amongst the Druidic Germans. 

He told them that the wood was a wood of peace and the evergreen was a symbol of everlasting life, which was what Christ promised all his people.

St. Boniface also said that because the fir was so strong and erect and pointed to heaven that made the fir tree the tree of the Christ child, and decorations, especially the lights, were symbols of the souls saved by Christ.

I found another legend that is a sweet story to tell young children. 

On that first Christmas Eve all creatures contributed gifts to be taken to the baby Jesus in Bethlehem.

The olive tree could give fruit and the palm tree gave dates, but the fir tree was so upset because it felt it had nothing to give. 

An angel felt sorry for it and decorated it with stars which made the baby Jesus happy to see such a pretty tree.  This gave us the custom of decorating the tree.

A more common and realistic explanation is the story of the German monk, Martin Luther, the famous church reformer of the mid sixteenth century.

At that time, evergreen trees symbolized hope for the spring in the German and Scandinavian countries.

The Martin Luther story is that one day while he was walking in the woods he saw the dew shining like stars on the branches of the fir tree. He thought this was so beautiful that he brought a small tree into his house and tried to re-create the beauty of it by lighting small candles on it.

I also found a note about the tree being introduced to Canada in 1781. At that time there was a group of Brunswick soldiers stationed in the province of Quebec to garrison the colony against American attack.

General Friedrich Adolf Riedesel and his wife, the Baroness von Riedesel, gave a Christmas party where there was a fir tree decorated with candles and fruits.

I am glad I researched the tree this year. From now on when I look at the Christmas tree, my first thought will be of hope and the promise of everlasting life.

Merry Christmas everyone.

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