There are more than just one type of Christmas tree. The most common type is the Scotch Pine. Second to the scotch pine is the Douglas Fir. The others are the Balsam Fir, the Virginia Pine, and the Blue Spruce. All five trees fall under the same category. They are known as the Evergreens.
While most plants die in the winter, evergreens stay alive all year long. In Ancient Egypt, the people used to hang evergreen boughs, aka reefs, over their doors and windows to ward off illness. Also, these reefs would pose as a reminder of the triumph of life over death during the winter solstice which begins on December 21st.
For the priests of Ancient Celts in northern Europe, the reef symbolized everlasting life.
The Christmas tree tradition, as we know it today started in 16th century Germany, when devout Christians brought home already decorated evergreen trees.
One night while walking home from composing a sermon, Martin Luther saw the twinkle of starts peeking through the branches of one of these decorated trees. Wanting to recreate this beautiful phenomenon to share with his family, Martin wired candles through his tree at home. Hence the Christmas tree lights.
By 1747, in Pennsylvania Germany, most settlements had a community tree. By the late 1840’s, Christmas trees were pagan symbols, and most Americans did not allow them.
After that, everything Christmas was banned from America for six whole years. It wasn’t until 1846, when influential Queen Victoria of London who was popular and well liked not only in Britain but also by most Americans, was sketched with her and her family standing around a Christmas tree, that Christmas became a holiday once again.
By 1890, Christmas ornaments were shipped from Germany to America. During the 20th century, X-mas trees were found in town squares and soon after, in almost every home.
The Legends of St. Nick
Santa Claus is derived from the Dutch name “Sinterklaas.” More popularly known as Saint Nicholas which is shortened to Saint Nick. Saint Nick was said to be a “Christian” bishop and gift giver. He was also the protector of children in Turkey, his home town. He is known for taking all his inherited wealth and spreading it to the poor and sick boys and girls down the countryside. In December 1773, and ’74, Dutch families gathered in the streets of New York to honor the anniversary of Saint Nick’s death. His story was shared with a reporter for the New York Times and then made popular by John Pintard.
Mr. Pintard engraved images on wood depicting familiar scenes of Sinterklaas stuffing toys into stockings. Later, Washington Irving helped popularize Saint Nick when he stated in a book he wrote that Sinterklaas was the patron Saint of New York. Irving was also responsible for changing the name to Santa Claus. Then Clement C. Moore wrote a poem entitled “An
Account of a Visit from Saint Nicholas” Aka, “Twas The Night.” This poem is the basis for the popular story of Santa. In 1881 Thomas Nast, a cartoonist, created the famous image of Santa Claus. Fully designed with the round belly, white beard, and red hat and suit.
The Christ in Christmas
On Christmas day many people celebrate the birth of Jesus. Because the three wise men followed the Star of David that led to the precise location in which the baby would be delivered, all the people of Bethlehem bared witness to baby Jesus resting somewhat peacefully in the warm space Mary made for him. All men women and children bowed in his presence
after delivering gifts to their new king.
Even though the exact date of his birth is unclear, we still are joyous for the fact that he was born. However, the English word “Christmas” originated from the old English word “Christmass” which has origins derived from Latin. “Mass,” meaning to dismiss or send away. Being that the definition does not fit in at all with the celebration, this is just another
example of how distorted our holiday for our Savior has become.
So why December 25th? It is the fixed date agreed upon by almost everyone, to gather in this great occasion and celebrate how we will, a day of love, miracles, and gift giving. Sadly, due to the controversial date and everything that has accumulated to make Christmas what it is today, some people refuse to even put “Christ” in Christmas anymore. Instead they replace the title with “X” and write and say the holiday as X-mas. Others that are not so deeply stirred away by confusion simply use X-mas as an abbreviation and leave it at that.
When it’s all said and done, I feel in my heart that Jesus and Santa Claus both make up the spirit of Christmas. Each share in humbleness, love, compassion, and joy. They are the heart of the season. Although many believe Santa is only a product of marketing, and I do not entirely disagree with them, I strongly feel that the Jolly old man earned his place in the
holiday. As he is the face of the spirit of giving. At the age of 26, I still think of the character to be magic. For he reminds kids and adults alike, that love, and kindness are the most powerful forms of magic there is. And to never stop believing.
With that said, a belief in Santa as children, empower us in the faiths as adults. Our hearts have learned to hold on to something more. To seek with child-like excitement. And to believe that there is no such thing as impossible. For me, the magic has not died. And I continue to celebrate the holiday in remembrance and honor of my Lord.
Which means I choose to keep the “Christ” in Christmas, because both have deep roots in my life.