The Origins of the Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree is said to have originated in Germany with the decoration of pine trees with fancy ornaments. However, there are alternate theories that suggest otherwise. In fact, there are many legends about the Christmas tree that led to the widespread belief that the Christmas tree is an essential part of the Christmas season and its celebration.

There is the legend of St. Boniface, an English monk, who is said to have saved a child from being sacrificed by pagans. When they were gathered around an oak tree to sacrifice the child, the Saint flattened the tree with one blow of his fist. A small fir sprang up in its place and St. Boniface told the pagans that it was the “tree of life,” and represented the life of Christ.

Another legend traces the story of the church reformer Martin Luther. It tells of his journey through a forest on Christmas Eve, as he was amazed by the glistering of the many stars that shone through the evergreen trees. He cut down one of the trees and took it home.

The truth is that the Christmas tree tradition has been around long before the Germans, St. Boniface and Martin Luther. The Nordic pagans and the Celtic Druids revered the evergreen tree as a symbol of everlasting life and hope for the return of spring. While other plants and trees died, the evergreen trees remained alive continually; hence, they were revered as manifestations of deity.

As a symbol of prosperity, the Druids decorated the evergreen outdoors. It was the Scandinavian pagans who were the pioneers in bringing the decorated trees indoors; and the Saxons, a Germanic pagan tribe, who were the first to use candles to illuminate the tree.

In addition to these pagan rituals, the tree is also linked to the celebration of the Winter Solstice. Pagans would celebrate the Winter Solstice, and as a part of that celebration, they would decorate trees. This celebration represented the end of the long, dark winter days and the beginning of the spring and its connection to life. The triumph over the winter darkness was the reason for the celebration.

There are many other theories about the origin of the Christmas tree. Researchers have failed to accurately pinpoint a single origin, but it is correct to state that it evolved from pagan traditions. Understanding how the tree was used in the past will shed light on its meaning in the Christmas celebration. Many Christians unwittingly partake in tree decorating without knowing the cryptic meanings behind the adoration/decorating of a tree.

The fact that the evergreen tree was considered in pagan religions to symbolize everlasting life, robs us of the reality of Jesus’ supreme sacrifice that enables us to have true eternal life. The evergreen tree is believed by some pagans to hold continual life, and as such, is commonly used in pagan worship and celebrations.

I often wonder, do believing Christians really know what they are doing when they place a Christmas tree in their home?

Do they really believe that the decking of a tree has something to do with the birth of Christ?

In Jeremiah 10:2-8 we read,

Thus says the Lord: ‘Do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven. For the customs of the peoples are futile; for one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple. They are upright, like a palm tree, and they cannot speak; they must be carried, because they cannot go by themselves. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, nor can they do any good.’ Inasmuch as there is none like You O Lord (You are great, and your name is great in might) who would not fear You, O King of the nations? For this is your rightful due. For among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like you. But they are altogether dull-hearted and foolish; a wooden idol is a worthless doctrine.”

Those are the words of the Lord from your Bible. Why do so many Christians overlook this very important chapter in the Bible and do precisely what God warns us not to do? It is certain that God condemns such practices and warns His people not to adopt these pagan ways; yet many people who consider themselves Christians, do exactly that.

Here is something that all Christians should consider. If God was against the cutting down of trees, bringing them into our homes and decorating them way back then, and He is the same yesterday, today and forever; do we honestly believe He changed His mind and is now somehow happy with it ?

Comments

  • charity

    Wow i didnt know that much now i understand and this needs to be told to alot of people. Its true how the bible says my people perish because they lack knowledge not that they dont have it just need alot to get by these days. would like to know to to get the books that were advertised on the God channel the other day

  • charity

    Honestly in my own opinion i would not have a Christmas tree in my home. Simply because i do believe that it has nothing to do with the birth death even the life of Jesus Christ, the whole reason or point of me being a Christian is to follow Christ so following Christ and adding pagan practices is kinda wrong. The bible says in Exodus 11 that you shall have no other God But ME. Other can be anything in this case believing that a green tree gives everlasting life which replaces the Christ.

  • Judy

    I am so very thankful to sites such as this.When I first became a believer it was very clear to me that Christmas trees were pagan and that we should not be participating in pagan rituals. It confounded me why other believers did not know this ,like did they not read scripture.As a Sunday school teacher I had asked that the Christmas tree not be a part of our Christmas pageant and it was removed once I had shown the elders the scripture in Jeremiah.But there were many who were very upset and angry with me because they could no longer have their pagan symbol in church.One thing I have since learned that when God puts something in your heart/mind and even though you stand alone amongst other believers ,God is with you and He will bless you.

  • You are very right Judy, stay strong. Thanks for your comment and God bless.

  • R van

    I must say this is not correct, if you study those verses you will find that it is talking about using the wood of a tree to make an idol, not the tree itself.

  • Where does it say that in the scripture?

    The Bible clearly describes it as cutting a tree out of the forest and decorating it. There's nothing about cutting up the tree and carving it into an idol, or using just the wood..

  • The first interesting fact is the source of real Christmas Trees for some Americans. These can be bought at a Christmas Tree Farm or at many local stores and other places of business in just about every town and city across the country around Christmas time.

  • Pingback: The Greatest Story Never Told | Church of God International (CGI) Toronto, Canada Congregation()

  • Dinapreuss

    Love the article– thanks so much.

    My heart is saddened at how tightly people grip to their religious traditions, refusing to give them up– even when someone shows them that those things come from pagan origins. I hear so many excuses from well-meaning people who desparately want their rituals, even though God himself condemns them.

    I wish we all could walk in the same faith that Joshua had when he told my fore-fathers that we may be grass-hoppers to these people, but God will help us defeat them!

    If we could all have Joshua’s resolve to remain faithful to the Lord– just think of what could be accomplished! But no… some of us would rather cling to christmas tree’s and easter egg’s!

  • jbennett4579

    If you’re going to place your love of a Christmas tree above God, then yes it would be a problem as Jeremiah suggests. However, if a Christmas tree has become a symbol for light in a dark world, a reminder of Jesus’ love displayed on a cross, the display of a star on that fateful night leading the shepherds to the manger, an activity that brings families together to talk about these things and to teach the children about the symbols that all point North to the one true God, then God has sanctified these things and Jesus has redeemed them. Merry Christmas to all.

  • Correct… It
    depends on the Bible “translation” you are reading and how that
    particular translation spins it. In the “original Hebrew” the verse
    is discussing cutting down a tree in the forest, setting the ax “to it’s
    bottom” in order to then apply nails so it will stand upright, and then
    decorating it with silver and gold and “carrying it”(– because it
    cannot walk on its own) into your very home.

    I don’t think Adonai can get any clearer than THAT.

    He said in verse 2 NOT to learn the ways of the nations who do the things above
    to the evergreen tree’s.

    So, I will assume then, that God does not want us to celebrate any holiday in a
    manner that we cut down a tree, adorn it and bring it into our homes.

    Throughout the entire Bible we are called to be Holy, to be set apart, and NOT
    to do the things that the other nations do.

    So, it’s our choice to either; listen to God, and then follow what he tells us
    to do… or, follow what we “feel like doing” because it’s fun. Just
    remember though… God will judge… we each individually will stand before him
    to give an account of our obedience.

    And just so you are not confused… standing before God to give an account of
    our obedience is NOT the same thing as standing before him to give account of
    “who we belong to”. They are two different issues! As his children,
    God requires our obedience!

  • Jbennett, this was exactly my point. God calls us to “Holiness” and NEVER to “mixture”. You can find all sorts of scripture that directly tell us from God’s very lips NOT to do the things that the pagans do, and not to mix ourselves with them or their customs. And yet we disobey… because we don’t want to miss out on all the fun!
    We cannot continue to live disobedient in this area and expect that it’s all alright with a Holy God who told us directly NOT to do it… simply because people decided to “change” the real meanings of the symbols to make it more palletable and acceptable.
    Show me a scripture where God allows us to disobey HIS directive, but then he turns around and “blesses” that pagan thing… because it brings families together… or allows people to talk about Him. God never “sanctifies” that which belongs to darkness!
    If you believe that, then you serve a double-minded god who is not the King of the Universe.

  • jbennett4579

    It’s a slippery slope. Just about anything, from the days of the week to common wedding ceremony practices (the rings and the dress), can be tied to pagan tradition. Romans 14:5-6 says, “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.” In light of this scripture, I would gently remind you of the passages in the Bible forbidding the consumption of meat. Secondly, in the passage in Jeremiah, the writer is not referring to a Christmas tree, which did not exist until the 16th century. When I look at the branches on my Christmas tree I’m reminded of Christ’s holy sacrifice on the cross. When I decorate the tree with my children, pulling out the ornaments carefully, each with a special meaning, I remember Christ’s light in our dark world and the God-given gifts of family and love. These are inanimate objects, yes, but they remind me of Christ. But that is wrong, according to you. Maybe you don’t believe that God has sanctified that which once was evil, but I do. And it began in a manger in Bethlehem. They called his name Jesus.

  • Stay strong Judy, God blesses obedience! I too have been confounded as to why Believers want to ‘have their cake and eat it too’, so to speak. People think that if we take something pagan– meant to worship pagan gods at certain times of their pagan seasons… but put a nice Bible spin on it, change the meanings of the symbols so the talk about God instead, etc. that God will somehow honor our efforts and bless that evil thing anyway. We might as well spit in his face with that way of thinking. =0(
    The sadest part for me is that by having this sort of mindset we call God a liar… because he said he hates evil, and he told us to turn from the ways of the pagans and not to learn to do what they do.
    We either believe what God says, or we don’t believe what he says. It’s that simple.
    Obedience brings a blessing, while disobedience brings a curse!

  • Charity, if those who call themselves “Believers” would actually take the time to see what each part of Christmas truly represents and what each symbol truly means then they would carry an entirely different view-point on the subject altoghter.

    I grew up with a hardy Christmas and a tree, but have since learned the true origns of all the holiday envelopes and have changed my mindset concerning its celebration. Ironically, it really is NOT that difficult to locate all the information on the subject… but people don’t do it because they want to cling to the fun they have and to all the pretty decor and great food.

    Our customs become petty strongholds that we refuse to give up. We would rather have fun with the pagans than to honor God and obey. =0( We should be thankful that God promised Noah he will never flood the earth to destroy mankind again… cause truthfully, he would have it a long time ago!

  • I love your last line… but you seem to be confusing “persons” with “things”. Yes our Messiah was born to sanctify “us” when we were once in darkness… but God does not make holy those things that are used in pagan practices.
    The “special days” refered to in the verse above are not “pagan days”… they are refering to the “Jewish Holy Days” that God set into place and ordained as “HOLY” and told us to celebrate through all of our generations– yet Believers refuse to honor.
    At that time in history, some people felt Sabbath was far more holy than say, The Feast of Trumpets, or The Feast of Booths; etc. And because of peoples particular preferences toward a particular festival they felt their neighbor was faltering… And so the writer of Romans simply reminded them that all the holy days are equal and you should not judge someone else for liking one more than the other.
    This is not an “OK” to follow pagan holidays. It is however, a reminder that God created and designed several yearly feasts and told us to celebrate them (…not until Messiah comes and dies and rises again…but) for ALL our generations.
    so again, it really does not matter what spin a person wishes to place on a pagan tradition. It still is a pagan tradition… pagan traditions do not honor God no matter how hard we try to change their symbols to reflect something about God.

  • jbennett4579

    Is it fair to say that one who chooses not to erect a Christmas tree should also refrain from singing Christmas carols, not to mention wearing a wedding ring, watching TV shows that do not honor God, going out without a head cover (if a woman), speaking in church (if a woman), and the list goes on?

  • Again, you’re mixing concepts, and you even through in a couple that God never required, but man did… =0(

  • jbennett4579

    You meant “threw,” not “through.” Spelling errors aside, please enlighten me. (I’m being more genuine than sarcastic.) I would really like a list of activities (or inactivities, as the case may be) that God required. The last time I checked the Bible was written by man, so I’d really like to hear the ways in which you discern what is truly God’s requirement and what is man’s.

  • Shannon

    If you read the entire chapter in it’s context though, you will see that it is not talking about the Christmas tree, but rather that the “craftsman” cuts down a tree, skilled people “carve it” and then decorate it with silver and gold, making it into a wooden idol to be worshipped. Further on it specifically calls what is made from the tree “wooden idols” and talks about that they cannot speak or walk (as in that they have carved faces/mouths and have carved feet but cannot talk or walk). You have to read the entire chapter to see exactly what it’s talking about, otherwise the first few verses do indeed make it sound like it’s talking about the Christmas tree (which, consequently was not even being used yet, so it wouldn’t be condemning that).

    However, I do agree that the origins of the Christmas tree and Christmas in general are paganistic, and the Bible in several instances in the old Testament states that we are not to take the rituals that the pagans did and use them for our own.

  • Brandie Prine

    JBennett, just curious if you are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses?

  • Ode

    I know this was posted over a year ago, but if your viewpoint is still the same, I’m curious as to why you consider paganism evil?

  • We are part of a Sabbath-keeping Christian group: http://www.cgitoronto.org

    Speaking for Prevail Magazine, not JBennett

  • no

    How do you know Jeremiah wasn’t talking about a christmas tree? after all most of God’s prophets did speak about future events.

  • Outcast prophet

    I have presented the pagan origins of the Christmas to many, quoting Ezekiel 10:2-8. The vast majority of responses I received were filled with excuses & crazy, non-sensical reasoning for why Christians should continue to put these trees up & decorate them. Not one person really grappled with the text in Ezekiel, took time to research anything, or explained how an evergreen tree has anything to do with Jesus’ birth. Several people actually insisted it was a Christian symbol. God’s people are destroyed for lack of knowledge! But even when knowledge is given to them, they are destroyed by stubbornness & hard-heartedness & clinging to that which is pagan instead of to that which honors Christ. Simply put, they don’t want to know the truth. The prefer the lie.

  • TheRMSDave

    That article is so full of illogical reaches, it honestly reminds me of the movement to unveil backward masking on rock records in the eighties. The closest thing to spiritual significance the tree has in any of the Pagan religions cited is with the Druids, as a symbol (not a source) of eternal life. With Christ being the true way to redemption and eternal life, churches should put up twice as many Christmas trees and explain that to to the world around them.

  • TheRMSDave

    You don’t read that passage and get Christmas tree. Jeremiah is explaining the futility of taking something that grew in the forest, was turned into lumber and crafted into an ornate god that people worshipped as a source of power, blessing and good luck. I know of people who do the same thing with plastic figurines of saints.

  • TheRMSDave

    Nice post! I think of it in the same way as those who came before us would take tunes they heard in bars and wrote words with them that honored God and sung them in church. We still sing some of those hymns today.

  • Dina Schlie Preuss

    Outcast Prophet, I’ve recently just told a friend this very same thing. It floors me that many Christians will actually say: “Well, Christmas may have started out pagan, but God took ahold of it and changed it so now it’s all about Jesus. ”

    WHAT? ! So basically they believe that THE God of Heaven is A-O.k. with sloppy seconds. That even though the Bible tells us that we are not to have anything to do ever with pagan articles and that we aren’t to do the things the pagans do that he will allow us to take what is pagan and call it Jesus’s birthday and celebrate that with pagan articles!

    Whatever happened to being Holy because God is Holy? To being set apart? To being in this world but not OF it?

  • Dina Schlie Preuss

    Yes… what better way to celebrate Jesus than to completely IGNORE the fact that HE would have been celebrating Hanukkah during this time of the year! Oh, and let’s further spit on him by insisting that he accept our pagan tokens that belong to false gods and false religions. Jeez!

  • Dina Schlie Preuss

    Simply put… because the God of the Universe does.

  • Jah See

    This would be ‘cherry picking’, to say the least.

  • Jah See

    And you would mean Yehoshua (Ye’shua, if one relates to Israelites), not Jesus. The name ‘Jesus’ has no Hebrew translation – the name was instilled into the texts by the Greeks.

  • Randy

    Look up ashtoreth tree in bible it is a tree worshipped and used next to idols that were also worshipped. I agree that the tree was turned into a idol not used as a Christmas tree.

  • Randy

    I agree that people mis read that scripture but think we should not put trees in our house. The bible never says December 25th is Jesus bday so it’s not ok to celebrate. Also the ashtoreth tree in the bible was worship beside and with pagan idols. Also Romans started a lawless week from dec 17-25 called “saturnalia”. God is not in Christmas. We can plainly see it’s commercialized and not allowing us to be good stewards of our monies

  • Wonderer

    why do you call yourself a prophet ? do you think that is a light matter. Only God sends a prophet forth because a prophet must be under God’s protection to deliver His message.
    Also if we are to accept the and eliminate pagan practices that have crept into Christianity why do we not have the same attitude toward killing of innocents basically in the name of God based upon lies?
    Doesn’t God stand against killing? according to scripture in Isaiah 1, the killing of innocents, against oppression of the poor, against adultery of one’s neighbor’s wife Ezekiel chapter 5 . Oppression of the poor is all over the Psalms. Yet there is no preaching on this as well.
    Was John the Baptist the friend of any government when he was on his mission and preached or did John the Baptist rebuke the government for its evil? I think we know the answer when John the Baptist rebuked King Herod he was beheaded. Isn’t the same thing necessary to do with all these evil governments, that not only participate in pagan practices but outright devil worship and murder of innocent blood. I find it is only one dimensional to disregard these facts . ANd what I always wonder is – What does God really think about the other subjects I have mentioned

  • Danielle Theresa Battisti

    I agree. What I read in this verse is not referring to a Christmas tree but a tree that is carved to become an idol. Idols were adorned with silver and gold. this is why as you read it says like a scarecrow it cant talk…so apparently the idol has a carved mouth and it cannot walk so legs were carved out. The Bible has to be read in its context so as not to be misinterpreted.

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