It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here. As I write this article, our wonderful workers are busy decorating the tree that adorns our lobby each year. The Christmas tree today is a common custom to most of us but have you ever thought about its origins? There are many connections to ancient traditions, but most scholars point to Germany as being the origin of the Christmas tree.
One of the earliest stories relating back to Germany is about Saint Boniface. In 722, he encountered some pagans who were about to sacrifice a child at the base of a huge oak tree. He cut down the tree to prevent the sacrifice and a fir tree grew up at the base of the oak. He told everyone that this lovely evergreen, with its branches pointing to heaven, was a holy tree—the tree of the Christ child and a symbol of his promise of eternal life.
Another legend that has not been proved is that Martin Luther is responsible for the origin of the Christmas tree. This story says that one Christmas Eve, about the year 1500, he was walking through the snow-covered woods and was struck by the beauty of the snow glistened trees, shimmering in the moonlight. When he got home, he set up a small fir tree and shared the story with his children. He decorated the Christmas tree with small candles, which he lighted in honor of Christ’s birth.
If you’ve already put up your Christmas tree or will in the days ahead, I hope you will think about all of the many traditions surrounding it, not just these two, and how they always seem to point to the Christ’s birth and the promise of eternal life.