Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Anti-Pagan Christmas Tree

This time of year, it is often common for fundamentalist blogs to start discussing the pagan roots of the celebration of Christmas, and various Christmas customs. Often the Christmas tree specifically, is attacked because of Jeremiah 10:3-4:

For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.

They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.

However, the Christmas tree is not the making of an idol. Rather, it is a refutation of paganism.

Saint Boniface, a monk from Crediton, Devonshire, England established Christian churches in France and Germany in the 7th Century. In 723, Boniface felled the holy oak tree dedicated to Thor near the present-day town of Fritzlar in northern Hesse. Boniface called upon Thor to strike him down if he cut the "holy" tree. Boniface started to chop the oak down, when suddenly a great wind, as if by miracle, blew the ancient oak over. When Thor did not strike him down, the people converted to Christianity. He built a chapel from its wood at the site where today stands the cathedral of Fritzlar.

A fir tree growing in the roots of the Oak was claimed by Boniface as a new symbol. "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."

By chopping down a tree and bringing into your home, you are refuting a pagan religion which taught that trees were sacred. You can read more about St. Boniface at Catholic Encyclopedia or from the original biography of St. Boniface written by Willibald within thirteen years of Boniface's death.


sara said...

this is interesting. Thank you.

Elena said...

Welcome back Kelly! Missed ya!!

kozimom said...

Hmmm, interesting........I've always heard that Martin Luther is attributed with having the first Christmas tree! Apparently, he wanted a symbol to show his children how Jesus came to give us everlasting life and he used candles as a symbol that Jesus is the light of the world.

Kelly said...

I'm only here temporarily. Expect another two weeks of silence after this. But then we should be moved. :)

kozimom, I have also frequently heard Martin Luther credited with the first Christmas tree. Boniface predates him, but I don't know if it became a custom after that.

It's possible that Luther was reviving an old custom. It is also possible that people knew the story of Boniface, but didn't actually put trees in their homes, and Luther built on the story and began the custom. It's hard to know for sure at this point.

Elena said...

What I read as an interesting part of Christmas tree trivia, is that it was Prince Albert who popularized the custom of bringing in the Christmas tree. It seems that it had been a favorite tradition of his as a youth in Germany and when he married Queen Victoria he thought she would love it! So he brought in the lighted Christmas tree and it delighted the Queen. The rest of England followed suit and the rest is history!

Tracy said...

Great post Kelly!