The Story of the Christmas Tree

In the seventh century a monk from Crediton, Devonshire, went to Germany to teach the word of God. His name was St. Boniface. He did many good works there and spent much time in Thuringia, a region later to become the centre of the Christmas decoration industry.

Tradition has it that St. Boniface used the triangular shape of the fir tree to describe the Holy Trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The converted people began to revere the fir tree as God’s tree, as they had previously revered the oak.

By the twelfth century it was being hung, upside-down, from ceilings at Christmas time in Central Europe, as a symbol of Christianity and was referred to as the ‘Tree of Christ’.

The first decorated tree was at Riga in Latvia in 1510, while the first Christmas tree came to England with the Georgian Kings from Germany.

At this time, also, German merchants living in England decorated their homes with a Christmas tree. The British public were not fond of the German Monarchy, so did not copy the fashions in vogue at Court, which is why the Christmas tree did not become established in Britain at that time.

In 1846, the popular Royals, Queen Victoria and her German Prince, Albert, were featured in the Illustrated London News. They were standing with their children around a Christmas tree. Unlike the previous Royal family, Victoria was very popular with her subjects, and what was done at Court immediately became fashionable. The English Christmas tree had arrived!

On the more profound meaning of the ‘Tree of Christ’, the late Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira explains:

‘Each feast of the liturgical calendar brings an effusion of special graces with it. Whether men want or not, grace knocks at the door of their souls in a more sublime, meeker, more insistent way during the Christmas season.’

The Christmas tree, with its beautiful decorations, lights, and star or angel on top, helps to elevate the soul above the materialistic aspects of modern day Christmas. The tip of the tree points to a marvellous world that is Heaven.

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To show how the introduction of the custom of the Christmas tree was a gradual process and how it favours the elevation of the ambience, we will tell the story of a Catholic family in Austria as written by P. Rosegger in his book Peasant Life in Styria.

‘It had long been a great desire of mine to put into practice something I had heard was done in other towns to celebrate Christmas. One should put a small fir tree on the table, affix candles to its branches and place presents for the children underneath, explaining that it had been the Child Jesus who had left them there.

‘So I had the idea to setup a “Tree of Christ” for my little brother, Nickerl. But I needed to do this secretly (part of the procedure) and before my mother entered the kitchen to prepare breakfast.

‘As soon as there was enough light, I went out into the cold. I hid my gaze from those working around the house and when I returned from the forest with a small fir top, I ran to the barn where the horse carts were kept to hide it there.

‘It was soon night. The servants were still busy with the stables and in the bedrooms, where, according to the custom of Christmas Eve, they washed their heads and put on festive clothes. My mother was in the kitchen preparing her typical Christmas sweets. And my Father was with little Nickerl going around the property blessing it with incense, praying all the while. It was necessary to expel the evil spirits and attract angelic blessings to the house.

‘Thus while everyone was busy with their tasks, I prepared the “Tree of Christ” in the main room. I took my tree from its hiding place and put it on the table. I then cut ten or twelve candles from the wax block and placed them on the branches. Underneath I put some sweetbread.

‘I heard some slow and gentle steps on the floor above. I knew it was my father and my little brother who were there blessing the loft. They would soon be coming to the main room. I lit the little candles and hid behind the stove. The door opened and they entered with the incensor and then stopped….

‘“What is this? My father asked in a low but prolonged voice.”

‘The little Nickerl looked on dumbfounded. In his big, round eyes were reflected the lights of the “Tree of Christ” like little stars.

‘My father advanced slowly to the kitchen door and called in a low voice:

‘“Wife, Wife, Come and see this.”

‘And when she came, he asked:

‘“Did you do this?”

‘“Mary and Joseph!” my mother exclaimed, “What did you put on the table?”

‘The servants soon arrived and were very impressed with the unexpected surprise. So one of them suggested:

‘“Maybe it is a ‘Tree of Christ’! Could it be that the angels brought this little tree from Heaven?”

‘They all contemplated and marvelled at the tree. And the smoke of the incense filled the whole room and formed a delicate veil that rested on the illuminated tree.

‘My mother looked around the room for me:

‘“Where is Peter?”

‘I thought it was the moment to come out of my hiding place. I took Nickerl’s cold hands, who was still dumbfounded and continued rooted to the spot, and took him close to the table. He almost resisted. But I told him in a very solemn tone:

‘“Do not fear my little brother! Look: the dear Child Jesus brought you a ‘Tree of Christ’. It is yours!”

‘And the young boy was overjoyed and folded his hands like he did when he went to church.’

As we mentioned earlier, the top of a Christmas tree points towards a marvellous world, the world of Heaven. In this light, let us consider an enchanting tale about a Christmas tree. The story elevates one’s spirit to a higher plane, thus satisfying our desire for that which is marvelous.

Pious legend recounts that when the shepherds went to adore the Divine Infant, they decided to take Him fruits and flowers from the area. After this harvest, the plants congratulated themselves on being able to offer something to their newly-born Creator: one had given its dates; another its nuts, and so on.

From the fir tree, however, the shepherds had taken nothing because its needle-like leaves and sharp cones were not presentable gifts.

The fir tree recognised its unworthiness, and not feeling worthy to participate in the conversation, prayed in silence: ‘My newly-born God, what can I offer You? I offer you my poor and unworthy existence. This I gladly give You in gratitude for You having created me in Your wisdom and goodness.’

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God was pleased with the humility of the fir tree, and, as a reward, ordered a multitude of little stars to come down from heaven to adorn it. The stars were of many colours: gold, silver, red, blue, etc. When a group of shepherds passed by, they not only took the fruits of the other plants, but they also took the whole fir tree, as such a marvel had never before been seen. Thus the fir tree ended up by decorating the grotto of Bethlehem, being placed very close to the Child Jesus, Our Lady, and St. Joseph!

END

  • Jean Cloutier

    I love it!

  • Sandie Webb

    So inspiring, thank you for sharing it!

  • Virginia c Okafor

    This is a wondrously Advent story.Thank you.

  • Joe

    Makes me feel good

  • Dale McNamee

    What a wonderful article !

    An excellent tonic for the ailments caused by the commercialized “Christmas” !

  • Robert Augeri

    I enjoyed the article and I now know what the Christmas tree is all about and how it came to be.

  • marilyn mccormick

    Thank you for taking time to share this story. As we give to one another, we give to Jesus as well.

  • Sabienne

    Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. 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. Jeremiah 10:2-4

    • Jameson

      I always loved having a Christmas Tree with my creche beneath it and without ever having heard as a child that the tree tradition began in Germany, thought the tree in its raw state was such a fitting symbol because Christ in his raw state as a baby in a manger grew up in the guiding hands of St Joseph to become a master carpenter molding raw wood into fine examples of craftmanship and molding men into children of God and I always found the transformation of both symbolic of the wondrous gifts of God.

      • Sabienne

        Read Mark 7:8, 9, 13. Col. 2:8. 2Th. 3:6

        Good for you, but idol worship has no place in the life of a true Christian. Christ doesn’t need your symbols anymore than God needed the golden calf in Exodus 32. What Christ wants is you, not your stuff. Do you not understand that these things are distractions from Christ Himself?

        I have a standing offer to give $10,000 to anyone who can show me where in the Bible it is written that we are supposed to celebrate Christmas. I’ll never have to pay it because it isn’t there. And the reason it isn’t there is because it’s a pagan holiday devised by men.

        If you ever arrive at the place mentally and spiritually where you love the word and instruction of God more than Christmas trees, creches, assorted Christmas geegaws, etc., then we can talk.

      • Bruce1314

        Sabienne is just a trolling Protestant Fundamentalist (one of the self invented 1 million Protestant sects ) one of many false prophets that’s arisen .he attacks Catholic websites with his self heretical interpretations of their heretical Protestant Sola Scriptura(Bible) ( Peter 2.1-20).He offers $ 10,0000,but never pays to those who correct his heresies,he owes Billions of dollars to people who correct him with the true Catholic Bible which has been in use 1000 years before the heretic Martin Luther invented his own version of Bible(Sola Scriptura).Long live the celebration of our Saviour Jesus Birthday,CHRISTMAS,Hail Hail

  • Ken Pullen

    To all of you so caught up and lost in this tale thinking it so wonderful, and making you “feel good” and perverting it as if it comes from God and Christ? The comment from Sabienne below is the only one which has any truth to it. What should be everyone’s source is God’s Word. Not some tale from the mind of man to promote further erosion of the truth. Everything anyone needs to know regarding the origin of the Christmas tree and what it really means only need go to Jeremiah 10 and read the first 4 verses and that says it all as clear and plain as anyone needs.

    • madamoiselle c

      I do agree. Never knew this before. Grew up with Christmas Trees every year. It IS a pagan symbol. All you have to do is look around. Rockeller Center totally satanic always has a Christmas Tree. Hollywood also totally satanic always has Christmas Trees in movies, cartoons etc. The White House always used to have Christmas Trees.

      A pagan symbol that most Christians have adopted.

      The story of St Boniface has been changed. He never advocated the Christmas Tree. He did chop an oak down, as the pagans were worshipping that.

      • gestr

        When St. Boniface chopped down the oak, there was a small fir tree growing inside it. They took that as a sign from Heaven. Boniface told them it pointed upward, to direct their minds always to God. Fir trees are created by God. If Christians use them to honor God, that is not pagan.

      • Jameson

        The facades on the buildings in Rockefeller Center depict Greek mythology stories. So, while thwy are not really Satanic, they are pagan. While one could see those myths as a tribute to the ancient Greek civilization, I always thought it was really weird that Atlas on Fifth Avenue stands at the grand entance to Rockefeller Center and is designed to be exactly across the street from the main entrance of St Patrick’s Cathedral–which was built way before Rockefeller Center. I think it was definitely an anti-catholic, discriminatory, secular humanistic, purposeful insult built by an atheist who despised Christians.

        • madamoiselle c

          Rockefellers are part of the satanic illuminati, so yes they are satanists.

    • gestr

      Certainly fir trees (as all trees) come from God. To use trees to honor God is not pagan. Jeremiah 10 is taking about carving an idol from a tree to worship it. No one worships Christmas trees.

    • Trueteller

      Why you can’t be happy with God in your heart in these days of Christmas? It’s so simple. Enjoy! God,Son and Holy Spirit bless you!

    • Jameson

      Well, why would you deny that St Boniface ‘s conversion story using the fir tree plays a major role in delivering the Gospel to the ends of the earth. St Boniface is a Catholic saint and no matter what Christian Church you belong to, the Bible you read was painstakingly guarded from heresy throughout history by the Catholic Church which is why you are able to quote Jeramiah universally and be understood universally by every Christian on the planet.