A look at some of the origin tales…
Well this time of year sees our family erect all the Christmas decorations, so today I thought I would like to look at the legends surrounding why we use Christmas Trees.
One legend is that of Saint Boniface, an English monk who organised the Christian Church in both France and Germany. One day, he came upon a group of pagans gathered around a great oak tree about to sacrifice a child to the god Thor. In order to stop the sacrifice and save the child's life Boniface struck the tree once with a mighty blow of his fist, felling the tree, which proceeded to crush all the other shrubs around it except for one small fir tree. The saint told the pagan worshipers that the tiny fir was the Tree of Life. Then Saint Boniface, attempting to win converts, interpreted the fir's survival as a miracle, concluding, "Let this be called the tree of the Christ Child."
Another legend tells of a time when Martin Luther, a founder of the Protestant faith, was walking through a forest on Christmas Eve. As he did so he looked up to the heavens and was awed by the beauty of the millions of stars glimmering that he could see, their twinkling light cutting through the branches of the evergreen trees. He was so amazed with this beautiful sight that he cut down a small tree and carried it home to his family. Then in order to recreate the same kind of starlight beauty, he placed candles on all its branches to emulate what he had seen in the forest earlier.
Another such legend tells the tale of a poor woodsman from long ago, who met a lost and hungry child on Christmas Eve. Although he, himself, was very poor too, the woodsman gave the child food and also shelter for the night. The next morning the woodsman awoke and found a beautiful, tree, which was glittering in the sunlight outside his door. The hungry child had really been Christ in the form of a child and had created the tree to reward the good man for his charitable deeds.
Yet another legend places the origin of the Christmas tree with the "Paradise Play," which in medieval times, because most people could not read, used plays to teach the lessons of the bible all throughout Europe. The Paradise Play, which showed the creation of man and the fall of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden in the Book of Genesis was performed every year on Christmas Eve, December 24th. However there was a problem with the time of year in which the play was performed, it being in winter and an apple tree being needed. As apple trees do not bare fruit in winter and a substitution was needed, it was decided to use Evergreens instead, which were hung with apples.
One last legend I wish to share with you comes from Germany and concerns spiders and Christmas trees. Back then families allowed their animals to come inside and view the Christmas trees on Christmas Eve, because the Christ Child was born in a stable and they felt that the animals should take part in the Christmas celebrations too. However, spiders were not allowed to join them, as housewives did not want cobwebs all over everything. This of course made the spiders feel unhappy thus one year inside a little cottage they decided to complain to the Christ Child, himself. Feeling sorry for them, he decided that late at night he would let them in to see the trees himself. Well the spiders were very excited about this and loved the Christmas trees and all night long they crawled about in the branches, leaving them covered with their webs. That very Christmas morning the housewives saw what the spiders had done, however, instead of being angry, they were delighted, for during the night the Christ Child had turned all of the cobwebs into sparkling tinsel. And even today, tinsel is often used to decorate Christmas trees to add that same sparkle that the Christ Child gave the cobwebs long ago, in that little cottage in Germany.
I hope you enjoyed these little tales of the Christmas Tree legend. Be sure to check back on the 16th to hear another, more modern take on the Christmas Tree legend, another, which I am sure you will enjoy, as much as I do.
Until next time have fun!
December 12th 2009
8 hours ago