Picture of a Christmas tree for an article on Allen West's site, the Old School Patriot

The Story Behind the Christmas Tree

In Faith by Allen WestLeave a Comment

I came across this story by Tony Boquet and wanted to share it with y’all. Merry Christmas from The Old School Patriot!

Who does not love the sight of a Christmas tree but have you ever considered what it truly means? Knowing my love of history, many of my friends from a wide array of religious and ethnic backgrounds; have asked me questions about the various symbols of the holidays. The Christmas tree, a symbol based on moral foundations, is tied deeply in my search for wisdom, a topic of which I have done much research.  I would like to share some of my findings and thoughts with you.

The first Christmas celebrations were in 12th century Germany. A fir tree was used in mystery plays as the so-called “paradise” tree. These dramas were held outside during the Advent and Christmas seasons and the fir tree symbolized the tree of life in the Garden of Eden. The evergreen fir-tree was viewed as a sign of hope throughout the winter season–hope in the promise that the rest of nature too would awaken to a new life in the coming spring. The message of this symbolism for Christians was simple: through Jesus Christ, we too have hope for everlasting life. Indeed, if you are Christian, Jesus Christ has become the new tree of life–the paradise tree as well as the new Adam. As such the evergreen Christmas tree reminds us that even though our earthly season must come to an end, we will have eternal life through the grace of our Lord Jesus.

It was not until the early 17th century, again in Germany; Christmas trees were brought inside our homes to represent our invitation to Jesus to enter into our lives, to be part of our family. To this point, think of how the evergreen tree does not die or fade away or lose its needles in the winter, representing the immortality of the resurrected Christ. Think of how alone evergreen tree stands in stark contrast to the surrounding bleak winter landscape.

When all of the other trees have “died” to the winter season the evergreen flourishes and brings beauty to the cold, dead world. Is this the reason why you put that Christmas tree in your family room?

Let’s reflect on the decorating of the tree. The tradition was not started to make the house festive or to make the tree match the decor in the house. The lights in the Christmas tree have a deeper meaning. Originally the lights used were candles and not very many of course. The candles too were meant to symbolize Christ, specifically his guiding nature and gift of eternal life to us; “I am the Light of the world.” says the Lord. Even today, we place lights where we wish to direct people’s attention because we are drawn to lights as natural behavior. Before electricity, if you traveled at night it was extremely dangerous. They did not have outdoor lighting so candles gave off enough light to see where you were going so that you did not stumble and fall. Jesus came into the world to guide us safely to our Heavenly reward. I recently read that the candle provides light and warmth by consuming its own substance, the wax. So, too, did Jesus give of his own substance–his earthly life–so that we might find and follow His divine light? Once we have found this divine light for ourselves; we too are enabled, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to give of ourselves to others.

At the very top of the tree, was placed the largest of lights representing the Star of Bethlehem. Just as the star led the shepherds to the baby Jesus, this light guides us to the tree that stands as a reminder of his birth. As the tradition evolved, some people began to place an angel at the peak of the tree as a representative of the host of angels that heralded the birth of our Lord.  Angels, the citizens of Heaven’s community, sharing in the same joy that the people of Earth feel toward the birth of Jesus. This symbol reminds us of their acclamation, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of glad tidings which will be for all people; for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Glory to God in the Highest and peace on earth and goodwill to all.”

What about the ornaments, steeped with deep and memorable meanings, they represent the many prayers and gifts that we bring to Jesus to hold and handle for us. Gifts and burdens that Jesus has taken into his arms, throughout the years of our mortal lives; our children, our treasures, our talents, our challenges, and our shortfalls. When we gather our family to decorate the Christmas tree do we share these representations with them? When you hang your child’s first ornament on the tree each year, do you place it carefully and securely in the branches, thanking our Lord for this precious gift and symbolically place your son or daughter back into the arms of Jesus?

Christmas is the feast of love, where we share gifts with each other as Christ shared the ultimate of gifts, his own mortal life so we could share in His eternal life. Of course, the gifts we place under the tree symbolize the gifts the Magi delivered to Mary shortly after the birth of her son. By the way, did you know that is why we open birthday gifts after the date of birth and not before? As Jesus preached the “New Law”, to love one another as I have loved you; we show love to each other as we would if Jesus Himself were here to receive our birthday gifts to Him.

My family shares this special prayer with you and your family; if you have a Christmas tree, that you reflect on the true meaning it represents. And as we wake up Christmas morning, may we unwrap the gift that our Lord wants most of all, the gift of giving our life back to Him through our love for one another.  

Merry Christmas!