>> Date sent: Tue, 17 Dec 1996 22:56:25 -0800
>> Send reply to: "CELTIC-L - The Celtic Culture List."
>><[log in to unmask]>
>> From: Pamela Highet <[log in to unmask]>
>> Subject: Re: Winter Solstice
>> To: [log in to unmask]
RE: Christmas tree legends:
>> At 06:53 PM 17/12/96 -0800, Paul wrote:
>> >No, actually, the most common beleif relating to the christmas tree was
>> >that Martin luther was ealking through the woods and he saw the starlight
>> >in the trees. Martin Luther wasn't "pagan" was he?
>> > Joel
>> >(looks like I won't just sit back and listen, after all!)
>> Nope Joel: That's NOT the most common belief. In fact, I was raised
>> Lutheran, and NEVER heard that before. It is no doubt a Christian overlay,
>> but the trees themselves go way back before Martin Luther. But I'm certain
>> a few more answers will be racing in on this one any minute, or, uhm. .
>Christmas trees are a German custom (RAY - tell us!) and only came to
>England with King George quite recently.
Loved the legend re: Martin Luther! Never heard that one before (and I am
Lutheran, too). Since seeing Paul's post, I have been doing a bit of
research, out of curiosity, as I have heard many differing theories
(presented as "fact," may I add) about the origin of the Christmas Tree.
Well, the search has left me even more confused!
Some sources say the first Christian use of a Christmas came about in the
8th C. when St. Boniface cut down an Oak Tree and declared this
symbolically meant the "death" of pagan ritualism being tied to Christ's
birth, via celebrations of Winter Solstice. Other sources tie the
Christmas tree to Alsace, claiming that this region sported the first
"Christian Christmas Tree." I found other references to Miracle and
Morality plays, giving credit to staging wh/ incorporated a tree to
symbolize the "Tree of Life" and was used to depict Adam and Eve's ouster
from the Garden of Eden -- and performed on the Feast Day of Adam and Eve
which is Dec. 24th (I did not know about this particular Feast Day, so if
anyone out there can verify whether or not this is the correct date, I
would be most interested. This is simply what I read from one source).
None of these "sources" cite references, so I had no way of validating the
Just for fun, I started emailing and calling friends and neighbors to ask
them if they had ever heard any legends about why Christmas trees are part
of our traditional Xmas celebration. Out of 14 people, 12 responded with
some version of: "Christmas trees are Druid;" 2 people said they thought
"Christmas trees were a German custom." I heard all types of answers!
"Christmas trees were first used by Christians b/c Druids believed spirits
lived in trees, so when the Christians cut down a tree, it was to
symbolically 'kill' the spirit of paganism." (Maybe some version of the St.
Boniface legend??) One respondent said: "Druids decorated trees long
before Christianity was founded, and Christians used some of the Druids'
symbols, because that had been their earlier custom." I also heard "Fir
trees are green and a symbol of everlasting life, which Christians tie to
Jesus Christ, who offers everlasting life." (This is close to what I was
taught as a Lutheran -- my husband, a Catholic, says a version of the St.
Boniface legend is one of the things he was taught, although he has heard
the "everlasting life" reference, too).
Since I have no "scholarly" references to cite, I don't feel I really
discovered anything -- I just uncovered more legends. Now, I know we have
some GENUINE scholars out there -- anyone have some truly *erudite* info to
Also, I found it interesting that "Druidism" as a term was interjected so
frequently by the respondents. It makes me really wonder what the "average
person" thinks "Druidism" means -- what that word conjures up in one's
mind. Which takes me off on another route . . . mythic symbolism and
archetypes. Good grief. Another research project. >sigh<