I had a discussion recently with a Christian mom who had strong feelings about not letting her children partake in Halloween with costumes and candy because “it’s pagan”. She didn’t like hearing that the Christmas tree is as well. Quick to defend it, she didn’t know the history or the truth. In case you don’t either….
The Prophet Jeremiah condemned the ancient Middle Eastern practice of cutting down trees, bringing them into the home and decorating them, as Pagan. Notably, these were not really Christmas trees, because Jesus was not born until centuries later, and the use of Christmas trees was not introduced for many centuries after his birth. Apparently, in Jeremiah’s time the “heathen” would cut down trees, carve or decorate them in the form of a god or goddess, and overlay it with precious metals. Some Christians currently feel that this Pagan practice was similar enough to our present use of Christmas trees that this passage from Jeremiah can be used to condemn both:
Jeremiah 10:2-4: “Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.” (King James Version).
During the Roman celebration of the feast of Saturnalia, Pagans did decorate their houses with clippings of evergreen shrubs. They also decorated living trees with bits of metal and replicas of their god, Bacchus.
The English Puritans condemned a number of customs associated with Christmas, such as the use of the Yule log, holly, mistletoe, etc. Oliver Cromwell preached against “the heathen traditions” of Christmas carols, decorated trees and any joyful expression that desecrated “that sacred event.” [Diane Relf, “Christmas Tree Traditions,” Virginia Cooperative Extension, 1997-AOR, at: http://www.ext.vt.edu/ ]
In America, the Pilgrim’s second governor, William Bradford, a Calvanist, tried hard to stamp out all “pagan mockery” at Christmas time. 4 Christmas trees were not used by Puritans in colonial times. [“What is a tree?,” at: http://www.serve.com/ ]
In Northern Europe, the ancient Germanic people tied fruit and attached candles to evergreen tree branches, in honor of their god Woden. Trees were viewed as symbolizing eternal life. This is the deity after which Wednesday (Wodensday) was named. The trees joined holly, mistletoe, the wassail bowl and the Yule log as symbols of the season. “Should Christians celebrate Christmas?,” at: http://www.sovereigngrace.net/ ]
Well, there you have it. Now, what will you do?