The Christmas Tree
The first Christmas tree
The first Christmas tree started with St. Boniface (born Winfrid in 680). He was a British monk and missionary to Germany. Boniface found it difficult people were attracted to Christianity but unable to give up their religion and superstitions, perhaps out of fear of being different or of how the old Viking "gods" would react. Much of the worship of these persons was centered around sacred trees at which they practiced sacrifices and made offerings to the gods.
Knowing that the people needed reason to let go, Boniface called the tribes to a display of power. Preaching about the birth of Jesus under a great sacred tree dedicated to Thor, he found himself facing an angry, armed crowd. As the people watched, Boniface approached the giant oak of Geismar, a sacred tree dedicated to Thor, with an axe. He began to chop the oak tree but nothing happened. Finally with a crack, the tree split in four parts and fell to the ground in the shape of a cross. All the trees around were crushed except a single small fir tree. There stood St. Boniface, axe in hand, unharmed by their old gods, strong in the power of the One God.
It is said that he used that small triangular fir tree as an illustration of the birth of Christ, and of the Trinity (because of it's shape), telling the story of how the One God sent his Son to save the world from sin. Small fir trees were hung upside down from the rafters of homes and churches as a symbol of Christianity from the twelfth century. They later became decorated with apples and sweets, and tradition has it that Martin Luther put candles on a tree for his children.
The first Christmas trees in America
The claim of the Pennsylvania Germans to have initiated the Christmas tree custom in America is undisputed today. And it's in the diary of Matthew Zahm of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, under the date December 20, 1821, that the Christmas tree and it's many decorations received their first mention in the New World.
It is not surprising that, like many other festive Christmas customs, the Christmas tree was adopted so late in America. To the New England Puritans, Christmas was sacred. The Pilgrim's second governor, William Bradford, wrote that he tried hard to stamp out "pagan mockery" of the observance, penalizing any frivolity. The influential Oliver Cromwell preached against the "heathen traditions" of Christmas carols, decorated trees, and any joyful expression that desecrated that "sacred event".
Decorating your Christmas Tree
games: The Christmas Tree Game (challenging)
Remember the Colorforms you used to play as a child? They were so fun! Now you can play them online!:
Gospel reading: Matthew 15:29-37