Why Decorate Trees?

Have you ever taken time to stop and wonder, "Why am I cutting down this tree and bringing it into my home in order to spend the next two hours decorating it with lights, ribbons, balls, bells, stars, angels, and the fifty cheap paper ornaments my children made this month in Sunday school?" What is this tree supposed to commemorate? And if we’re honest, what does a decorated tree have to do with the birth of Jesus?

St. Boniface vs Thor

Although it would be a stretch to link today’s Christmas tree tradition with some sort of stunning spiritual significance, there is an old Germanic story that provides an interesting origin to such a tradition. Throughout Germany, tree worship used to be a popular pagan practice in which people would cut down trees and decorate their houses with them. Well, one winter day during the seventh century, a local German missionary named Boniface came across some men worshipping a tree known as Thor’s Oak. This didn’t sit well with St. Boniface so he took an ax and immediately cut down the oak to prove to the pagan people that Thor is not the god they assumed he was, and that the God of St. Boniface was the One True God of the universe. When nothing happened to him after cutting down the tree, many of the Germanic pagans lost their faith in their gods and decided to put their faith in Jesus. St. Boniface then pointed to an evergreen tree that was growing in the same location as the fallen oak and said…..

“This humble tree’s wood is used to build your homes: let Christ be at the centre of your households. Its leaves remain evergreen in the darkest days: let Christ be your constant light. Its boughs reach out to embrace and its top points to heaven: let Christ be your comfort and guide.”

Perhaps the Christmas tree is connected to Christ more than we realize. Each winter, the Germanic people would continue their practice of decorating their houses with trees, and now the evergreens would symbolize their testimony concerning the One true superior God and remind them of Jesus their Savior.