Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Christmas Tree

The tradition of bringing in a fir or evergreen tree inside the home to decorate it for Christmas is a Christian tradition, but the folklore and traditions of the evergreen associated with the Winter Solstice or Yule is truly pagan.
     The pagans honored a many variations of trees through their myths, lores and traditions. During the Winter months, the evergreen was held in high honor for when everything else was brittle, bare and dark, the evergreen was still green. It represented the eternal life even in the darkest times; that life continued on. Most pagans didn't like cutting down the tree. Some considered it taboo to even cut one down, but they did bring into their homes the sprigs and branches of the evergreen to decorate their homes.
     During the Roman celebration of the feast of Saturnalia, the Romans decorated their homes with the clippings of the evergreen shrubs. They would also decorate the living trees with pieces of metal and images of their god. The Romans are said to be the ones that started the tradition of decorating their homes with the evergreen. They did this in honor of their god Adonia.
     Even the Egyptians decorated their homes during the Winter Solstice not with evergreens but with the palm tree which to them represented eternal life and resurrection.
     The ancient Germanic people would tie fruit and attach candles to the evergreen branches in honor of their god Odin or Woden. The candles would also represent the coming of the sun and also would be light in the promise of the Sun King returning again. Apples and other fruits were hung on the tree to represent the plentiful food to come. The trees were also decorated with roses and colored paper.
     Now the idea of bringing the tree indoors and decorating it for Christmas is credited to Martin Luther. Around the 1500, he went for an early morning walk on Christmas Eve. As he was walking he noticed a group of evergreens glistening in the moon light because of the snow that was on the branches. He was awe stuck at the beauty. When he got home, he set up a fir tree indoors so he could share the story with his children. He then decorated it with candles, which he said represented the Christ child and the light that he brought into the world. The candles were also said to represent the stars in the night sky over Bethlehem with the tree topper star as the Star of Bethlehem.
     The idea of the Christmas tree was said to been brought to England by Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert who was from Germany.
     The tradition of the Christmas tree that was started by Martin Luther was probably brought over to America during the Revolutionary War with the Hessian troops and also with the German immigrants to Pennsylvania and Ohio.
     During the beginnings of the United States, the English Puritans was against Christmas and anything connected to the holiday because of the pagan connections that it had.
     In 1851, Pastor Henry Schwan of Cleveland, OH decorated the first Christmas tree in an American church. He was condemned and even his life was threatened because of this.
     Through lots of my research I found a lot of Christian traditions to the origin of the Christmas tree. I do decorate a tree for Christmas or should I say Yule, but I decorate it with dragons, fairies, animals, pine cones and my tree topper is a wizard. I try to re-claim the tradition after all no matter what they say.... we, the Pagans started it.

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