The Pagan Beliefs Surrounding Christmas/The Christmas Tree

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It is safe to say that the Christmas tree is one of the most recognized symbols of Christmas, yet the origins of the Christmas tree are not clear. There is a legend that Saint Boniface started the custom of the Christmas tree in Germany around the eighth century. It is said that Saint Boniface found a group of pagans worshipping an oak tree and became angry; consequently, he proceeded to cut down the Oak tree. Immediately a small fir tree is said to have sprouted from the middle of the oak stump and reached to the sky. Thus, Saint Boniface told the onlookers that this would be their holy tree because it was evergreen, a symbol of everlasting life.

Historically, an oak tree named Irminsul (meaning Great Pillar) was in fact venerated by the Saxon tribes of Germany as the symbol of their chief god, Tiu, also known as Saxnot. Located in the vicinity of the modern town of Goettingen, the Irminsul was destroyed on the orders of the Frankish emperor Charlemagne during the late 8th century CE, as part of a military campaign to subdue the Saxons and convert them to Christianity.

Although many versions of the story exist, many authorities believe that the true origins come from ancient Egypt. Bill McLain writes, “On December 21, the shortest day of the year, ancient Egyptians decorated their homes with green palm branches to symbolize life’s triumph over death.” Before Christianity, plants and trees that remained green throughout the year were believed to have special meaning for people in winter. Bill McLain continues explaining, “Romans used evergreens to decorate their homes during the winter festival of Saturnalia, which honored Saturn, the god of farming.” In addition, Ancient Druids, a member of an order of priests in ancient Gaul and Britain who appear in Welsh and Irish legend as prophets and sorcerers, were known to place evergreen branches over doors to frighten away evil spirits.

People decorate the trees with baubles and tinsel to make it look really pretty to impress guests. Lights are put up outside houses as well to impress people in the cars driving past.

Traditions of Christmas · Bibliography