Winter Solstice/Yuletide Decorations
Every year, at this time of the winter season, people around the world set out decorations for the holiday season. And like many different times of the year, some people begin to make comparisons between Christian holidays and Pagan feasts and festivals.
The Winter Solstice/Yuletide festival and Christmas are one such comparisons. For sure there are a lot of cross over symbology between these Pagan celebrations and the Christian Christmas. But you might be surprised that the Christmas Tree is not one of these.
The following is an excerpt from The History of Yule:
The “Christmas” Tree
The Christmas tree tradition does not come from Pagans as many believe. Some people believe the Christmas tree comes from a story of Odin hanging from Yggdrasil in order to learn about the Norse Runes.
Odin does this, in order to learn of the runes that are used to control the worlds. Odin hangs himself from the great world tree Yggdrasil, and then stabs himself with his spear, making a sacrifice of himself for the great/divine knowledge. This is more closely related to the story of the Sacred King who sacrifices himself during the 1st Harvest Festival known of Lughnasadh.
Early Pagans lived in harmony with nature, cutting down an evergreen just for a winter decoration wasn’t something they did. Those trees were more important in keeping their homes protected against the winter winds, or shaded from the summer rays of the sun.
What they did do, was cut holly and bring them indoors to decorate and honor the Holly King, ie: the boughs of holly. Boughs is an old Proto-Germanic word (around 200BC), meaning the shoulder/arm and often used when talking about a branch of a tree. In this case, the holly tree. I don’t think holly trees were in Jerusalem with Jesus. Most of the symbology used during Christmas are indeed part of the Pagan observation of the winter solstice/yuletide season. But the “christmas tree” isn’t one of them.
The decorated tree comes from the 16th century and western Germany. In Christian Germany these trees were called “Paradeisbaum” (paradise trees) and were brought into homes to celebrate the annual Feast of Adam and Eve on December 24.
They were first brought to America by German immigrants around the 1700s. It took nearly 100 years for the Christmas tree to became popular among the general population.
In the 1850s the first signs of Christmas tree sales and lots began to appear around American towns.
In the mid-1850s President Franklin Pierce (1804-1869) established the first Christmas tree at the White House.
President Calvin Coolidge (1885-1933) started the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on the White House lawn in 1923.
Today Christmas trees are one aspect of the holiday that is solely Christian and has little influence from the pagan rituals and celebrations of old. However, this is one tradition that many modern Pagans have taken from the Christians for their own observances. And why not, Christianity has taken so much from us, why can’t we take something from them.
Today, many Pagans are converts of other religions, including Christianity. Those holiday traditions of decorating and sharing gifts is hard to give up for many. Not as a religious observance, but as a sense of brotherly love, family and sharing. As a result, many Pagans bring in live trees and decorate them for the Yuletide season. Once the holidays are over, these trees are then planted outside their home to share the memories for a lifetime. Another perspective is for Pagans to bring in an artificial tree for decoration, preserving the living trees out in nature where they belong. But still honoring the celebration of the season with a tree.
© 2018 Springwolf, D.D., Ph.D. Springwolf Reflections / Springs Haven, LLC. All Rights Reserved.