Cultures that lived before the coming of Christ celebrated the winter solstice and the coming of the sun. Since the coming of Christ, Christians celebrate the coming of the Son at the same time of the year.
As is common with many religious feasts, festivals and celebrations, Christmas is full of symbols. One of the most popular symbols of Christmas is the tree and evergreens in general such as holly and fir. The use of the tree to celebrate Christmas has roots that pre-date the coming of Christ.
The ancient Egyptians decorated their homes with green palm leaves during the time of the winter solstice. Romans also celebrated the winter solstice with greenery and the exchange of gifts. The people of Scandinavia spoke of Yggrdrasil, the Tree of Life, a great ash tree at the center of the universe. Germanic tribes presented sacrifices at Thor’s Oak. Another Christmas tradition we have inherited from the Germanic tribes is the burning of the Yule log.
Tradition has it that Saint Boniface (672 – 754), in order to show the superiority of his God over those of the Germanic tribes, had Thor’s Oak chopped down. When Thor didn’t rain lightning down upon the Saint, the people converted to Christianity. When a fir tree grew out of the roots of the oak, Boniface claimed the evergreen as a new symbol of his everlasting God.
It was not until the 16th century that trees were brought indoors at Christmas time. Martin Luther (1483-1546) is credited with adding lights to the tree.
Christmas is two days away; the New Year is almost here!