Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.

Why a Tree for Christmas?

6 Comments

Christmas tree

Do you ever stop and think about our Christmas traditions? Why we do what we do? I know I’m weird (at least that’s what my sisters told me growing up) but I do.

Here’s the one that’s had me by the throat since a week ago Sunday. I was chatting with my cousin’s mother when she commented on how beautiful our tree at FC3 is. (It’s always gorgeous, but she hasn’t attended church there for that long.)

So here it is . . . Does anybody know why we have the tradition of a Christmas tree? If you stop and think about it, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Like I’ve said before, I get the stars and the gifts and the decorations, but why a tree?

It would make more sense to decorate a manger, wouldn’t it? Or build a stable and decorate that?

I looked on Wikipedia, and they told me the tradition started in the 1500s, but they didn’t say why. The way I read it there, it was as if someone else did it so I want to, too. I can’t imagine that’s how it happened.

I remember several stories my mom told me when I was a child. Why Nicholas was made a saint, thereby becoming Santa Claus. Why animals talk at midnight on Christmas Eve. (Because they were there to see the Christ Child born, so they tell the story every Christmas Eve.) But I can’t remember if she ever told me why a Christmas Tree.

I honestly don’t know. I can guess, though.

Maybe it goes along with why red and green are the primary Christmas colors.

Here’s my theory:

Christmas is celebrating the birth of Christ. And we know He was born to die for our sins. So when we celebrate His birth, in a sense, we’re celebrating His death, too.

So I’m thinking the red to remind us of the blood He shed.

The Christmas tree is to remind us of the cross, the tree He was nailed to. But rather than a tree that loses its leaves, the tree is an evergreen, because He rose after three days in the grave and, in Him, we also have everlasting life.

So there it is–my explanation for why we celebrate with red, green and an evergreen tree. Right or wrong? Who knows? (If you do, please tell me!)

One thing I know absolutely–Because of Him, we can be “ever green.”

Now, I think I need more red on my tree. 🙂

Ps:

In answering Steve Bock’s comment where he quotes Jeremiah 10:2-4 (below) I went to The Bible Answer Man’s website and found this origin for the Christmas Tree. (You can read the entire thing in comments.)

The fact of the matter is that the Christmas tree originated in Christian Germany about two thousand years after Jeremiah’s criticisms of wooden idols. It originated from two Christian symbols found in homes at Christmas time. The first was a “Paradise tree,” an evergreen which was hung with apples which represented the tree of life in the Garden of Eden. The second symbol was a “Christmas pyramid.” This of course was a triangular shelf holding Christmas figurines and decorated with a star. By about the 16th century these two symbols had been combined into the Christian Christmas tree.

Thanks Hank!

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Author: Susan Shay

For as long as I can remember, I've loved two things--reading and people--and that led me to become a writer. Many of my stories are set in Small Town Worlds. I'm a wife, mother, sibling and an aunt. I have a deep faith in God, and an exciting life in Christ. Maybe I shouldn't be (after all, he's God!) but I'm constantly amazed at the things He's up to. :)

6 thoughts on “Why a Tree for Christmas?

  1. Wonderful post. I heard that Martin Luther started the tradition in Germany for the reason you stated above: to celebrate the tree where Christ was crucified. I, too, have always loved Christmas trees,and after learning about the origin, I loved it even more.

    Hugs, my dear friend.
    Jackie

  2. Jeremiah 10:2-4: “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.” (King James Version).

    • I’ve have that verse pointed out to me, too, Steve. Back when I had a real tree, I threw it out after Christmas, so it wasn’t really pertinent.
      I heard The Bible Answer Man talk about it one day. Here’s what he has to say:
      ARE CHRISTMAS TREES IDOLATROUS?- The Reality
      Although this may sound like a reference to Christmas trees, it really is not. In this passage God is condemning idols which are carved out of wood and used as objects of worship; thus, in the very next verse God ridicules the idols because they cannot talk and cannot walk! Obviously, this criticism is not aimed at Christmas trees at all.

      ARE CHRISTMAS TREES IDOLATROUS?- The Real Origin of Christmas Trees
      The fact of the matter is that the Christmas tree originated in Christian Germany about two thousand years after Jeremiah’s criticisms of wooden idols. It originated from two Christian symbols found in homes at Christmas time. The first was a “Paradise tree,” an evergreen which was hung with apples which represented the tree of life in the Garden of Eden. The second symbol was a “Christmas pyramid.” This of course was a triangular shelf holding Christmas figurines and decorated with a star. By about the 16th century these two symbols had been combined into the Christian Christmas tree.

      ARE CHRISTMAS TREES IDOLATROUS?- Conclusion
      Thus, the Christmas tree is a thoroughly Christian symbol, and Christians ought not to feel guilty for having one of them in their home. On the other hand, the Christmas tree is not essential to Christmas, and Christians may, of course, do without it if they choose to. If you see a Christmas tree in the home of a non-Christian friend or a relative, you might take the opportunity to point to it as the symbol of the fact that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem so that they might have eternal life.

      On Christmas trees, that’s the CRI perspective. I’m Hank Hanegraaff.

  3. Susan, loved the family time we had years ago walking through the woods to pick out the perfect tree with my Daddy. Then when got home & we would make colored paper chains & sometimes string popcorn into chains to help decorate the tree.

    This year, I still don’t have a Christmas tree up yet, but the Spirit of Christmas is alive! Just praising God for all the Christmas blessings he has bestowed on our family this year~ think this will be one of the best Christmas memories yet ~ when a child (no matter how old) comes through a tough health issue, you have received the best blessing & gift ever! 🙂

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