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To the Editor: The evergreen tree

December 29, 2010

Where did our Christmas trees get their origins (or beginning)? In Jeremiah 10:1-4, it makes this statement: God had warned Israel not to imitate the heathens (and this concerns  decorated trees). A woodsman goes out into the forest to cut down a tree, and then he fastens it down to his floor, where it does not move. Then they decorate it with silver and gold.

But, of course, this pagan ritual was never mentioned amongst Christians during the biblical days. Although this paganistic tree did begin when a very influential woman’s son had died. As a tribute to her dead son, she had ordered her followers to worship the evergreen tree as a symbol of everlasting life! And because these worshiped trees stay green all year long. But then this tree was adopted into our culture, and now it’s (falsely) called the Christmas tree!

Philip J. Wilson

Rockford

Editor’s note: The Christmas tree has pre-Christian origins among many cultures going back to the Roman Saturnalia celebration. In northern Europe, evergreens, because they did not die in winter, became symbols of everlasting life and were almost worshiped. Mistletoe was sacred to the Druids, and holly has been linked to Christ’s crown of thorns. The “influential woman” is not specifically identified in the preceding letter. According to Norse mythology, the goddess Freyja ruled over the heavenly afterlife field Folkvangr, and received half of those who died in battle, with the other half going to Odin’s hall, Valhalla. Wikipedia says, “Scholars have theorized about whether or not Freyja and the goddess Frigg ultimately stem from a single goddess common among the Germanic peoples… Freyja’s name appears in numerous places in Scandinavia… Various plants in Scandinavia once bore her name but were replaced with the name of the Virgin Mary during the process of Christianization.”

Collier’s Encyclopedia says, “The custom of trimming and lighting a Christmas tree probably had its origin in the medieval German mystery plays when a tree, the Paradeisbaum (tree of Paradise) was used to symbolize the garden of Eden.”

Still another legend attributes the Christmas tree to Martin Luther, who, about the year 1500, is said to have been walking through snow-covered woods where he was  impressed by the beauty of a group of small evergreens. Their branches, dusted with snow, shimmered  in the moonlight. Upon arriving home, he cut down a small fir tree and took it indoors for his children. He decorated it with candles, which he lighted in honor of Christ’s birth.

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