Friday, 26 November 2010

Christmas Trees - Pagan or Christian?

I always thought that the Christmas Tree was a pagan symbol which the Church has tried to Christianize. Imagine my surprise when I discovered recently that actually the opposite is true. It first emerged in the context of the Liturgical Drama. In the Middle Ages liturgical plays or dramas were presented during or sometimes immediately after the services in the churches of Western Europe. The earliest of these plays were associated with the Mysteries of Holy Week and Easter. Initially they were dramatizations of the liturgical texts. The earliest recorded is the Quem quaeritis (“Whom do you seek?”) play of the Easter season. These plays later developed into the Miracle and Morality plays. Some were associated with events in the lives of well-known saints. The plays were presented on the porches of large churches. Although these liturgical dramas have now virtually disappeared, the Passion Play of Oberammergau, Germany is a recent revival of this dramatic form.

One mystery play was presented on Christmas Eve, the day which also commemorated the feast of Adam and Eve in the Western Church. The “Paradise Play” told the well-known story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Paradise. The central “prop” in the play was the Paradise Tree, or Tree of Knowledge. During the play this tree was brought in laden with apples.

The Paradise Tree became very popular with the German people. They soon began the practice of setting up a fir tree in their homes. Originally, the trees were decorated with bread wafers commemorating the Eucharist. Later, these were replaced with various kinds of sweets. Our Christmas tree is derived, not from the pagan yule tree, but from the paradise tree adorned with apples on December 24 in honor of Adam and Eve. The Christmas tree is completely biblical in origin.

The first Christmas tree dates from 1605 in Strasbourg. By the 1700s the custom of the Christmas tree was widespread among the German people. It was brought to America by early German immigrants, and it became popular in England through the influence of Prince Albert, the German husband of Queen Victoria.

The use of evergreens at Christmas may date from St. Boniface of the eighth century, who dedicated the fir tree to the Holy Child in order to replace the sacred oak tree of Odin; but the Christmas tree as we know it today does not appear to be so ancient a custom. It appears first in the Christian Mystery play commemorating the biblical story of Adam and Eve.

In one article I read recently the writer asks: "How legitimate is it to use a fir tree in the celebration of Christmas? From the very earliest days of the Church, Christians brought many things of God’s material creation into their life of faith and worship, e.g., water, bread, wine, oil, candles and incense. All these things are part of God’s creation. They are part of the world that Christ came to save. Man cannot reject the material creation without rejecting his own humanity. In Genesis man was given dominion over the material world.

Christmas celebrates the great mystery of the Incarnation. In that mystery God the Word became man. In order to redeem us, God became one of us. He became part of His own creation. The Incarnation affirms the importance of both man and the whole of creation. “For God so loved the world…”

A faith which would seek to divorce itself from all elements of the material world in search for an absolutely spiritual religion overlooks this most central mystery of Christmas, the mystery of God becoming man, the Incarnation."

So it is not a case of Christianizing the Christmas Tree so much as reclaiming it again for what it really is, a Christian symbol representing the tree from the Garden of Eden which itself is seen, in the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation, as a figure of the cross of Christ. Think of Adam and Eve, their fall from grace, and the Tree on which Jesus died to redeem us and the Christmas Tree is a wonderful Christian symbol which deserves centre place in our celebrations.

3 comments:

Lady Ariana said...

Hahaha you just blatantly lied! The Evergreen tree PREDATES Christianity itself! Why do you think the Jew didn't believe in Christ ? Because the concept was stolen from the pagans...

Stop making Christians look bad by lying out of your ass and read a history book. Hell, read your own bible! Jeremiah 10: 1-5 CHRISTMAS TREE IS PAGAN. Even if it represented "Adam and Eve" why would you have a sinful tree in your living room, to forever remind you of "the fall"? PURE BULLSHIT

Grow up.

Lady Ariana said...

Hell, other Christians disagree with you, with evidence! Make up your minds!

http://christmasxmas.xanga.com/682414705/item/

My name is Mark Williams. said...

The post was based on what i had read on the net (somewhere) which I found interesting. I am open to be proved wrong if it is inaccurate. I know the passage from Jeremiah but there is no indication that it is a reference to a Christmas tree only that it is a tree decorated with silver and gold. Personally it reminds me of the tree on which Christ was crucified so tying in the incarnation with the resurection and crucifixion demonstrating that it is one story - the work of God in Christ. That helps rather than hinders my faith. But thanks for your comment.