O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
The notion of venerating trees goes back to the mists of time. Instead of building churches or temples, many peoples worshiped in a circle, or grove, of trees. A Tree of Life, is a popular symbol even today, often found on jewelry. I have one ornament made of olive wood from Israel in memory of the olive grove where Jesus and his friends used to go to talk, pray and rest. The cross upon which Jesus was executed is often referred to as a tree and contrasted with the tree in the Garden of Eden, and the trees in the book of Revelation with "leaves for the healing of the nations."
At the solstice, the Druids, priests of the ancient Celts, decorated their doors and windows with pine boughs, as did the Vikings in honor of their Sun God Balder. In Egypt palm branches were used to celebrate their Sun God Ra. In Europe, burning the Yule log was believed to bring good luck in the new year.
In Rome before Christianity became the official state religion, the god Saturn, influential in agriculture, was worshipped in a solstice celebration when homes and temples were decorated with evergreen boughs. The Saturnalia was a time of wild excess in food, drink and gift giving, and modern American Christmas is often compared to Saturnalia.
It doesn't surprise me that trees were, if not worshiped, venerated as a symbol of eternal life, especially evergreens. In my opinion, all trees are a miracle, bringing new gifts each season. I'm thinking here of apple trees, peach trees, walnut trees, even date palm trees. Miracles, all.
First Christmas Tree
Trees have been used in Christian celebrations since the early1500s , when Martin Luther, a German Protestant reformer, is said to have brought the "first" Christmas tree into the house to delight his six children. He explained to them the symbolism of an ever-green faith, that is, a living faith, and attached candles, as a symbol of the stars in the winter sky and of the one special Christmas Star of Bethlehem.
A traveling star, possibly a comet, is an important part of the Christmas story, leading the Wise Men (Zoroastrians, perhaps?) from the East (Persia, India?) to find and worship the newborn Savior they saw forecast in the stars, a new king, they said. Bethlehem was a town about five miles from Jerusalem, the capitol city. Jewish scripture pinpointed Bethlehem as the birthplace of the predicted Messiah.
These Wise Men brought expensive gifts for this new baby in Bethlehem: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Hence, our custom of our exchanging gifts. (Not as much notice is taken of the massacre of the toddlers of Bethlehem by the jealous King Herod, but that is a story for another day.) While the Bible does not call these travelers kings, nor even indicate there were exactly three, there is such a tradition in the church, such as depicted in the Christmas carol, “We Three Kings.” I suspect this is assumption is due to the wealth it would take to make such a journey and the three princely gifts they brought. The Bible calls them Wise Men or in more modern translations, astrologers.
Some Christians think that since Christmas is not a celebration of OUR birthdays, but that of Jesus, instead we should give gifts to the poor, the homeless, the sick and imprisoned–and we should give them in the name of Jesus, to honor Jesus.That is, in fact, what Jesus asked his followers to do, although not restricted to Christmas giving, since Christmas didn’t exist during Jesus’ lifetime.
In fact charitable giving is traditional at Christmas time. Many churches like mine take up a collection for food baskets and toys for poor children at Christmas. Nonprofits have constituted a day during December for such giving called Colorado Gives Day, which encourages giving to many worthy causes and has no overt connection with any religion.Tax breaks for year-end charitable giving encourage the practice.
I love my Christmas tree. As I unwrap the ornaments I remember where I was living or who gave them to me, like the “First Christmas” ornaments for my new baby girls, a tiny front door indicating our new house, a felt black Laborador for my faithful Sadie, and her pawprint to remember her passing. My mother and I used to exchange ornaments every year, and I have carried on that tradition with my own daughters. I bought many handmade ornaments at holiday bazaars from all the churches I have attended, such as beautiful crocheted snowflakes. And of course, as we traveled Jesse and I always found an ornament or two to remind us of our favorite vacations. And I always hang stars and angels with either the Angel Gabriel or the Star of Bethlehem on top.
A few years ago I divided my favorite and most expensive ornaments and gave them to my girls. I wanted them to have them now, not risk the flovely, ragile bits of glass and gilt being damaged or disappear ing during an estate sale. (Hint: If you decided to do this, reassure them you don't have cancer or other reason to think you will be dying in the near future.) I did hang on to the pickle and the birds’ nest, traditional good luck ornaments among my German and English grandparents.
New Ornaments: A Sparkly Christmas
My three grandchildren, Rylan, Sean and Carys, came for a sleepover this weekend. We painted glass ornaments and they decorated the Christmas tree. Glitter was everywhere! This will be a sparkly Christmas. Last year the three grandchildren made ornaments by painting their palms with acrylic paint and wrapping their little hands around the big glass balls to leave a print. Then Abi painted little animals and snowpeople out of their fingerprints. I still have ornaments my girls made of clay and paper and ribbons when they were in grade school, not that I am sentimental in any way!
My daughters, Abi and Rebekah, each gave me an ornament she designed in memory of my darling husband Jesse who passed in February this year. The children added their glitterball ornaments to the tree and took some home. We have pine trees in the yard, as it is Colorado. Maybe next year we will spray paint some pine cones gold, or possibly break out the glitter again!
I set up a little tree by the fireplace with the ornaments created this year by my daughter, known in some circles as Just Abi, to sell in her Christmas Store at www.LovelyandStrong.com, as well as designs by featured artist Lisa Harris! They are all so cute!
What are Chrismacorns? Fantastical critters, like unicorns. However, we wanted to offer something more special, more unique than unicorns. Almost every child today has at least 12 unicorns. My oldest grandson Rylan is much taken with norwhals, which look like unicorn porpoises. His little sister Carys still adores unicorns. (Sean still loves pandas, which have an ornament but no horns.) There's even a common saying, "Be yourself, unless you can be a unicorn. Always be a unicorn." But nowadays, what if you're more unique than all those unicorns?
If you're more attracted to cuddly animals than horses with horns, you're in luck! We've got more than hors-icorns in store for you! This year Abi made platycorns, racoonicorns, slothicorns, kittycorns, puppycorns, llamacorns and lambicorns, a cephalocorn (octopus unicorn), and believe it or not, quokkacorns(the happiest unicorns in the world.) Abi thought there are some rare souls out there that needed rare animals mixed in with the more domestic critters.
I bought my favorites, but now that I see them on the tree I want the whole 2021 Chrismacorn set. Also, I bought some of Lisa Harris’ ornaments that remind me of my childhood, playing out in the snow with my brothers and cousins. The ornaments are made of a nice ceramic, but they can also be ordered in a child-safe version less likely to break in the hands of little ones.
With any luck the Post Office will get the ornaments to me before Christmas. (Order as soon as you can if you want them, too!) The fabulous and fabulist Chrismacorns look sweet on my little tree.
P.S. I just got a BOGO coupon for you from Abi: ORNAMENT50, Buy One get the second for 50% off! Good until December 25! Yay! Now I can get the rest of the set!More Questions? Add in the comments or Write me at: michele@LovelyAndStrong.com