An artisan jewelry journey in color, texture and fun. Beaded jewelry with handcrafted sterling silver is my focus and joy.

Friday, November 16, 2007

O Tannenbaum

a musing following Lesley's post concerning her quest for her perfect pagan symbol.....

Conventional wisdom has the Christmas tree as being co-opted from pagan practices, but not being Druid, I really don't know how it was/is used in pagan celebrations.

I do find it ironic that for something as pervasive in our culture as the tree, that controversy comes in from all sides. Fundamentalist Christians chafe at its pagan roots, non-Christians chafe at the civil display of what they see as a uniquely Christian symbol and therefore inappropriate, and non-believers adopt it as a festive decoration for a holiday that can be celebrated completely stripped of any religious content, back to chafing the believers. And again, I confess ignorance to what the actual pagans are doing or thinking about trees at the Winter Solstice. Maybe they're chafed about all this, too.

How do I as a Christian see my tree?

It is an evergreen to symbolize God's everlasting love for me.

It is chopped down by human hands just as my actions separate me from the love of God.

It is a tree because it was upon a tree that my redemption came through the power of Christ's crucifixion. My church took this symbol further by allowing the trees used at Christmas-time to completely dry out, then they stripped the trunks of their branches and fashioned crucifixes to be used during our Lenten and Easter services. Understanding that those were in fact our Christmas trees enriched the meaning immensely for me - connecting the hope and joy of the promise of the Baby felt back at Christmas with what happened to bring about that hope on Good Friday. That was a powerful message.

It is decorated in lights to symbolize both the stars that shone on the night of Christ's birth, and that Christ is a light to my world.

On the top? A star for the star of Bethlehem that led the magi to the Child, or perhaps an angel to represent the heralds that proclaimed His birth to the shepherds.

Under the tree are gifts to those I love and hold most dear, consecrated at the foot of this symbol just as sacrifices are laid upon an altar. Because God loved me first, I can love others.

And yes, we co-opted the Winter Solstice, too. I heard stories that the reasoning behind the choice of date for Christmas was to specifically supplant the pagan rituals of the Solstice (Hey, the people need a good party in the dead of winter, so let's give 'em a Christian reason to celebrate!), and I have no doubt that was part of the reasoning, but I'm also sure there were probably lots of other pagan rituals they could have wanted to replace. So I think the Solstice was chosen deliberately as the perfect time to celebrate Christ's birth. Just as the earth begins to turn to the sun with the assured promise of the abundance of the coming summer, so, too, can we turn to the Baby born to bring abundant love to us all. These feelings of hope were part of the collective consciousness of people (in December in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway) - what better time to celebrate the hope of salvation?

Even with its "roots" somewhere not connected to Christ's birth, my Christmas Tree is a rich and meaningful symbol to me as a Christian. Do I chafe if someone else has a tree that is used in a secular or pagan manner? Of course not. It's just a pretty tree. But for me, our family tree will be an integral part of my meditations, celebration and joy this coming Season. May your holidays, however you see fit to celebrate them, be filled with hope and joy, too.

1 comment:

In My Head Studios said...

what a profound way to look at Christmas trees. thanks for the enlightenment! now I cannot wait to put up our tree this year and ponder its meaning as deeply as you clearly have. great post!
(i have such an awful crafty mess to clean up before there's even room for our tree!)