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Who doesn’t love a Christmas Tree? 

What Christmas would be complete without the glittering fir, filling the house with color and warmth?

But whence the custom of the Christmas Tree? The pine fir certainly wasn’t present in Oriental Bethlehem, when Jesus was born. Rather, palm trees grow in the East, and are often depicted around the Crèche.

So, why don’t we decorate a palm tree, rather than a fir tree? Is the custom even Christian, we may ask?

Indeed, that Christmas tree standing in our living room has an ancient, wonderful history. And though the custom began pagan, it was “baptized” and adopted by the wisdom of a great saint.

St. Boniface was an English man who lived in the ninth century and who felt called to evangelize the German nation.

One of the pagan German gods was a great oak tree called “Thunder Oak” in honor of the god Thor. Every winter, the locals offered a sacrifice to Thor, usually a child, under the mighty oak.

One year, fired by holy anger, Boniface decided to do away with the barbaric custom and bravely showed up with an ax just in time to prevent the killing. Before the astounded revelers, he proceeded to hack away at the massive trunk.

Legend has it that a miraculous gust of wind pushed down the tree at the first blows. Impressed that the “god” did not strike down the daring priest, the pagans accepted Christianity.

As the giant oak collapsed, standing there was a small fir tree that, somehow, escaped destruction.

 

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Pointing to it, the holy man said:

“This little tree, a young child of the forest, shall be your holy tree tonight. It is the wood of peace… It is the sign of an endless life, for its leaves are ever green. See how it points upward to heaven. Let this be called the tree of the Christ-child; gather about it, not in the wild wood, but in your own homes; there it will shelter no deeds of blood, but loving gifts and rites of kindness.”

Thus using strength, St. Boniface did away with an idol.

Yet, also showing amazing tact, he wisely filled the vacuum left by a cancelled custom with another tree, now used merely as a symbol or as a type of “sacramental” directing the new Christians to the true God.

So was the evergreen taken into homes at Christmas, from that time on becoming a loving sentinel to the birth of Christ, a symbol of hope, peace and good-will.

With time, small and large decorated evergreens were used as an actual backdrop to the holy Crèche, another custom begun by another great saint, Francis of Assisi.

So as you gather around the Christmas Tree this year, share its holy origins with your children, so they may not only love it’s lights and colors, but also the rich Catholic heritage that is theirs.

 


 

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By Andrea F. Phillips

References: EWTN Online, Catholic Answers, Wikipedia
Photos:
Christmas Tree: Dreamstime.

St. Boniface and Thunder Oak: Wiki Commons; attribution: Jdsteakley

 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for December 2, 2020

A society that needs healing and regeneration will receive i...

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December 2

 

A society that needs healing and regeneration will receive it mostly
from the innocent.
The pure can look on the impure without contempt.
It was Divine Innocence Who asked of a sinful woman:
Where are they who accused you?” (John 8:10)

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Chromatius of Aquileia

Empress Aelia Eudoxia resented Chrysostom’s denouncements...

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St. Chromatius of Aquileia

Chromatius was brought up in the city of Aquileia, at the head of the Adriatic Sea. In all likelihood, he was probably born here as well. His father died when he was young, and he lived with his widowed mother, older brother and unmarried sisters. His mother had the good opinion of St. Jerome, which the saint expressed in a letter to her in 374. His brother also became a bishop.

After his ordination, Chromatius took part in the synod against Arianism in 381. Later, as bishop, he rooted Arianism out of his diocese.

He baptized the monk, theologian, and historian, Rufinus in his early manhood.

On the death of St. Valerian in 388, Chromatius was elected bishop of Aquileia, and became one of the most distinguished prelates of his time.

Situated at one of the busiest crossroads of the Roman Empire, Aquileia was a major center of trade and commerce. Under Chromatius' care, guidance and influence it also became renowned as a center of learning and orthodoxy.

He kept up an extensive correspondence with both Sts. Ambrose and Jerome and also with Rufinus.  A scholarly theologian himself, Chromatius encouraged the Bishop of Milan to write exegetical works, and St. Jerome in his own writings. He helped St. Heliodorus of Altino to finance St. Jerome’s translation of the Bible.  It was also owing to Chromatius’ encouragement that Rufinus undertook the translation of Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History and other works.

He acted as mediator in a dispute that arose between St. Jerome and Rufinus concerning the writings of Origen. He also wrote to Emperor Honorius in defense of St. John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, over his troubles with the bishop of Alexandria and the Empress Aelia Eudoxia, who resented Chrysostom’s denouncements of extravagance. Though Honorius wrote to his brother Emperor Arcadius in Constantinople, the intervention had no effect.

Chromatius was also an active exegete. Seventeen of his treatises on St. Matthew’s Gospel survive, as well as a fine homily on the Eight Beatitudes. Chromatius died about the year 407.

Photo Credit: GFreihalter

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

Whoever recites this prayer fifteen times a day from the fea...

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A Christmas Prayer

(It is piously believed that whoever recites the below prayer fifteen times a day from the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (Patron of Scotland; 30th Nov.) until Christmas will obtain what is asked.)

America Needs Fatima also believes it's pleasing and efficacious any time of the year.

Click the image to download it.

 

Whoever recites this prayer fifteen times a day from the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (30th Nov.) until Christmas will obtain what is asked.

 

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