Wednesday, December 20, 2006The Origins of the Christmas Tree
The fir tree is of course what many of us know to be a very big part of Christmas-time: we decorate our trees with ornaments and lights, we put our presents under them.... but when did this start? What is the history of the fir tree? I did some research because I was interested in this myself. I know that the day will eventually come when my own children will ask me certain questions such as "why do we decorate the christmas tree?".. and I want to be able to answet them! Although most of what I am throwing out here is quoted from what I've read on Catholic culture's website, at least you all can take what you want from it and make sense of it yourselves as I am trying to do still. (Click on the sources link at the bottom to read everything in full.) Here is what I have learned :
Part-history, part-legend has it that: ~ St Boniface, (eighth-century Bishop), amidst his missionary work in Germany, came across a group of pagans worshipping an oak tree. In anger, he is said to have cut down the oak tree... in it's place a young fir tree sprung up from the roots of the oak tree. ...This tree signifies peace, and as an evergreen it also symbolizes immortality; with its top pointing upwards, it additionally indicates heaven, the dwelling place of God. When he gave the fir trees to the Druids, he said: “The fir tree is the wood of peace, the sign of an endless life with its evergreen branches. It points to heaven. It will never shelter deeds of blood, but rather be filled with loving gifts and rites of kindness.”
~Another legend is constituted by a famous hawthorn called the "Holy Thorn" that was found at Glastonbury Abbey in England and flowers at Christmas time. It was venerated as a "sacred relic" because a legend claims that it derived from a sprig that came from Jesus' crown of thorns. The legendary hawthorn survived for many centuries a was honored as a sacred relic. This flowering bush made a contribution of its own to the idea of a tree associated with the Christmas feast day.
The Christmas Tree itself: ~Origins of the Christmas tree are found in the medieval mystery plays which depicted the tree of paradise and the Christmas light or candle which symbolized Christ, the Light of the world. (The medieval mystery and miracle plays were performed in the middle ages to help teach the people, many of whom were illiterate, about the Christian faith. ) In these plays, the garden of Eden was indicated by a fir tree hung with apples; it represented both the 'Tree of Life' and the 'Tree of discernment of good and evil' which stood in the center of Paradise.
The Tree in the home and the decoration of the tree: The Paradise tree -from the play- eventually found its way into the homes of the faithful...In the fifteenth century the custom developed of decorating the Paradise tree, already bearing apples, with small white wafers representing the Holy Eucharist; thus, in legendary usage, the tree which had borne the fruit of sin for Adam and Eve, now bore the saving fruit of the Sacrament, symbolized by the wafers. These wafers were later replaced by little pieces of pastry cut in the shape of stars, angels, hearts, flowers, and bells... Hence our ornaments of today! ( --source: catholicculture.org)
~To read about the blessing of the Christmas tree in our own homes, click Here.
~Sia, in Ohio for the season