For as long as I can remember, my home has always had a tree in the house at Christmas. I can even pinpoint the exact time when my family of origin made the transition from a real tree to an artificial one. I was in the fifth grade (why I know that, I have no idea) and I remember a lot of falling down on the tree's part and a lot of swearing on my Dad's part. Next thing I knew, the Meijer ad was consulted, Dad picked out the nicest looking artificial tree in the flyer and sent the rest of us off to get it.
Of course, when you know exactly what you want you can't find it, so my Mom consulted a young man working in the seasonal department who helped locate said tree. The sale price must not have been marked on the box (this before computers and scanners - I'm dating myself, I know) because the young man escorted us to the check-out and informed the cashier of the discounted price.
To which the cashier replied, "Why? Who is she - your mother?"
To which my mother replied, (I'm sure not in the store but on the way home) "I don't look old enough to be that boy's mother!" Which I understand much better now that I'm "mature."
Ah, Christmas memories.
Have you ever wondered where our Christmas traditions came from? How did we come to bring trees - real or artificial - into our homes in the first place?
I knew that Christmas trees were pagan in origin, and it appears this tradition traces back to the Vikings. Evergreens were thought to be magical since they thrived despite harsh winter conditions. The Vikings would chop a tree down and place it in their home in hopes some of the tree's magical strength and endurance would rub off on them. Later Christians adopted the practice, recognizing the power lay not in the tree itself but in the One who created it.
In the middle ages, strings of fruit were placed on the trees and they were used in religious plays to represent the tree of knowledge. Eventually, the practice waned and the plays were all but forgotten, but the tradition of bringing a tree into the home lived on, especially in areas with harsh winters such as Germany.
Enter Martin Luther, who used the evergreen tree as a symbol of God's everlasting love which, like the color of the trees, did not fade. Candles were added to the trees to signify the light and hope Christ brought into the world. The trees became a symbol not only of the first Christmas, but of all elements of the Christian faith.
When Prince Albert of Germany married Queen Victoria in the mid 1800's, he brought the German tradition of the Christmas tree with him to England. From there the tree became a world-wide symbol of Christmas, spreading as far as the Americas.
Don't you love how God can redeem everything, even pagan traditions, and use them to point people to Him. May you have a blessed Christmas, focusing on the real reason for the season!
I've been reading, "More Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas" by Ace Collins, which is where I found this interesting information.Tweet
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