I recently heard someone questioning why we decorate a tree for Christmas. Well, a few years ago I asked myself that same question, and as I searched through various books and research documents to find the answer, there were a number of theories and legends and stories – some even connected the decorating of a Christmas tree to paganism. But the answer I liked best of all was the story of this man, Boniface.
In the late 600’s A.D., there was a man born in Devonshire, England; his name was Winifred. When he grew up, he became a Christian missionary and spent most of his ministry among the pagan tribes of Germany, working to convert them to Christ. And his tireless work there in Germany as a missionary earned him the title of “The Apostle of Germany”.
In the year 723, Pope Gregory II made Winfred a bishop and gave him the name Boniface. Years later he became an arch bishop and continued to devote himself to converting the pagans to Christianity until the year 755 when he was killed by a mob of disbelievers. “But” you say, “What does this man, Saint Boniface, have to do with how Christmas trees ever got started?” Okay, here it comes.
Early in his missionary work, Boniface came across a group of pagan people who were about to sacrifice a young boy to their pagan god, Thor. They believed that a certain oak tree was sacred to their god and that the sacrificing of young boys under that tree would appease that angry god.
Well, when Boniface saw what they were about to do, to kill the innocent young boy, he somehow stopped them and actually chopped down that sacred oak tree. I found nothing to tell me just how he was able to do all that without being killed himself. With God’s help Boniface must have surely been a very persuasive and compelling man.
So, the young boy was saved, and sometime after the people were converted to Christ, they visited the sight of that chopped down oak tree. To their amazement, a young fir tree had grown in its place. They went to Boniface and asked the question, “Just what did this mean?”
His answer? Boniface told the new converts that this fir was to be the new holy tree; that it was the tree of peace and the tree of Christ. According to this story, this is where the tradition of the Christmas tree began. And a great story it is.
But, just why do we place all of the lights and decorations on the tree? It actually makes perfect sense. If the Christmas tree is the tree of Christ, then it should surely have lights on it because Christ is the Light of the world. What a wonderful story.
May God bless you – and Merry Christmas!