For Christmas 2013 I wrote a post entitled Merry Christmas or a Happy Winter Solstice where I explored the fact that people of the northern hemisphere have celebrated the winter solstice for millennia. Then for Christmas 2014 I wrote about Oliver Cromwell, The Man Who Banned Christmas whose attempt to ban Christmas was doomed to fail.
Because I believe when the world is at it’s darkest we need to celebrate the light, and what better way to do that than with family, friends, good food and presents. But lets look at the trappings of our traditional Christmas. Where did they come from? Especially that icon of the season, the Christmas tree.
St. Boniface is believed to be responsible for putting the Christmas tree into Christmas. He was an eighth century missionary sent to convert the Germanic tribes to Christianity. He came upon a human sacrifice at the foot of an oak. He chopped down the tree and pointing to an evergreen said,
“This humble tree's wood is used to build your homes: let Christ be at the center 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.”
And so the tradition of using a fir tree to celebrate Christ’s birth was born. It wasn’t until German settlers came to the United States that the idea of a Christmas tree began to spread outside of Germany.
Although we know that Pennsylvania German settlements had trees as early as 1747 they were still seen by some as a pagan tradition well into the 19th century.
So what changed?
Queen Victoria’s German consort, Prince Albert, brought his Christmas traditions with him to Windsor Castle. In the 1840's illustrations of the royals celebrating around a Christmas tree were published worldwide And let’s face it, if it’s good enough for the royal family it must be good enough for the rest of us. And so the modern tradition of the Christmas tree was born.
I want to take this opportunity to wish you and your loved ones a very happy holiday.
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