Christmas: What is the origin of the Christmas tree?
As it has often been said, what goes up must come down. Such is the case with the annual Christmas tree. We used to display several of them in different parts of our home, but now that we’ve downsized, we have just one. We even got a new tree this year because the old one that we’d had for over twenty years wasn’t looking too good. Along with other problems with it, the lights that came with it had burned out many years ago. In the downsizing we also gave away most of our Christmas ornaments. What we kept are the ones we purchased on the many trips we made through the years. Therefore, every time we decorate for Christmas, we get reminded of all the beautiful places we’ve visited through the years. What wonderful memories we’ve made!
But what is the origin of the Christmas tree? There’s certainly nothing in the Bible about them. From what I’ve read in other places I’ve learned that they came to America in the 1800s. Probably the most famous one in America today is the evergreen brought in each year and displayed in Rockefeller Center in New York City. I’ve found that Christmas trees are grown in all fifty states, including Alaska and Hawaii. But the place of origin for Christmas trees as we decorate them and have them displayed today appears to have been Germany in the 16th century. It was then that Christians started setting up decorated trees in their homes. Martin Luther, the 16th century protestant, is credited as being the first one to set one up that was lighted with candles. It seems to me that would be quite a fire hazard, but such is the way the story is told about this. Later, we find records regarding Christmas trees in England. In a December 1848 edition of the illustrated London News, there’s a picture of Queen Victoria and her family surrounding a Christmas tree.
The first record of one being put on display in America was in the 1830s by settlers in Pennsylvania. But for many years Christmas trees were unknown or thought to be pagan symbols and not accepted by most Americans. But by the 1890s Christmas ornaments were arriving as imports from Germany. Christmas tree popularity in America was then on a steady rise. Europeans were putting up small trees at Christmas, but Americans liked their trees to go from the floor to the ceiling. The early 20th century saw Americans decorating their trees mainly with homemade ornaments. They used apples, nuts, and cookies. Sometime trees were wrapped with popcorn strung on thread. Electricity brought on Christmas lights. Eventually putting up a Christmas tree became a countrywide American tradition.
Every year we’ve used this holiday time to teach our grandkids the Christmas story. Sometime on or around Christmas Day we’d get them together around the Christmas tree and I’d ask questions about the Christmas story. Sometimes we’d put them in teams for this. For right answers they’d get tickets for drawings we’d have at the end for special Christmas gifts. What a fun memory-making time that has always been for us all!
Traditions of various kinds can be good, and they can be bad. Note a couple of comments the apostle Paul makes about them.
2 Thessalonians 2:15
15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions [PARADOSIS = something handed down] which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. [Emphasis added]
2 Thessalonians 3:6
6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition [PARADOSIS = something handed down] which he received of us. [Emphasis added]
I’ve written about some of the bad traditions in some of my articles. But, again, traditions can be good, very good. In our home the celebration of Christmas with a Christmas tree has been something we’ve always enjoyed. It has been a very good tradition for what we’ve used it for. It can not only be a beautiful piece of décor, but it, and the time of the year we put it up, has been used to teach principles stated in the Word of God. It is our hope that our grandkids will carry on with this tradition in the years to come. Perhaps it would even be a tradition you’d like to begin with your family.
I’d like to wish a merry Christmas to all of you who read my Bible study articles and watch my videos. Hopefully this new year will be your best in spiritual growth. And if you’ve not accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, I hope you will immediately.
2 Corinthians 5:21
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. [Emphasis added]
You may receive many wonderful gifts for Christmas, but not one of them surpasses the gift of salvation God offers to all through Jesus Christ.