by Tamera Lynn Kraft
Some believe the Christmas tree started during the Winter Solstice
when Druids worshiped trees. But from the beginning, Christmas trees
have been used as Christian symbols to teach about Christ.
The Upside Down Fir Tree
During the 7th century, a monk from Devonshire spent time there
preaching the word of God. He used the triangular shape of the Fir tree
to teach about the Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. By the
12th century, the Fir tree was hung upside down from ceilings in Central
Europe as a symbol of Christianity at Christmas time.
Boniface and Thor’s Oak
St. Boniface became a missionary to the Germans in the 700’s A.D
where he encountered Druids who worshiped trees. To stop their
sacrifices at their sacred Donar Oak near Geismar, St. Boniface chopped
the tree down in 725 A.D. With one mighty blow, Saint Boniface felled
the massive oak, and as the tree split, a beautiful young fir
tree sprang from its center. Saint Boniface told the people that this
lovely evergreen, with its branches pointing to heaven, was indeed a
holy tree, the tree of the Christ Child, a symbol of His promise of
eternal life. He instructed them to carry the evergreen from the
wilderness into their homes and to surround it with gifts, symbols of
love and kindness.
The Paradise Tree
From the eleventh Century, religious plays called “Mystery Plays” including the popular Paradise Play depicting
the story of the creation of Adam and Eve, their sin, and
thier banishment from Eden. An evergreen tree was used for this winter
festival and decorated with apples symbolizing the forbidden fruit. The
play ended with the promise of the coming Savior. Wafers were also hung
from the tree symbolizing the forgiveness of sins in communion making it
now not just the tree of knowledge but also the tree of life. This
resulted in a very old European custom of decorating a fir tree in the
home with apples and small white wafers representing the Holy Eucharist
at Christmas time. These wafers were later replaced by little pieces of
pastry cut in the shapes of stars, angels, hearts, flowers, and bells.
In some areas the custom, was still to hang the tree upside down.
In addition to the paradise tree, many German Christians set up a
Christmas Pyramid called a Lichstock – a open wooden frame with shelves
for figurines of the Nativity covered with evergreen branches and
decorated with candy, pastry, candles, and a star. The star represented
the star of Bethlehem, the candles represented the light of Christ
coming into the world, the evergreens were the symbol of eternal life,
and the candy, fruits, and pastries, the goodness of our life in Christ,
the fruits of the spirit, etc. By the seventeenth century the Lichstock
and the “Paradise Tree” became merged into the modern Christmas tree.
Luther’s Christmas Tree
There is a popular tradition that Martin Luther was walking on a
bright snow-covered, star-lit night pondering the birth of Christ.
Enthralled by the evergreen trees, the stars and the landscape, he took a
tree inside and put candles on it to represent the majesty he felt
about Christ’s birth as Jesus came down from the stars to bring us
Moravian Christmas Tree
The Moravians were some of the first Protestant missionaries from Bohemia to share the Gospel with Native Americans. They brought many of their traditions with them including indoor Christmas trees. They decorated the trees with white candles with red ribbons tied around them and pieces of paper with memory verses on them. In the early 1800s, a Moravian teacher made a star to teach Geometry to his students and placed the star on the top of the Christmas tree. That type of star is called a Moravian star.
Tamera Lynn Kraft
has always loved adventures and writes Christian historical fiction set in
America because there are so many adventures in American history. She has
received 2nd place in the NOCW contest, 3rd place TARA
writer’s contest, and is a finalist in the Frasier Writing Contest.
Her novellas Resurrection of Hope and A Christmas Promise are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Thanks for sharing the history of Christmas trees with informative tidbits how they were implemented in teaching the Gospel. Happy New Year.ReplyDelete
Very interesting. You can actually buy Christmas trees that hang upside down from the ceiling. Thanks for sharing.ReplyDelete