Gradually, the tradition has evolved: Christmas decorations and lights that represent the joy and light that Jesus Christ brought to the world were placed on the tree.
Around 723 Saint Boniface was travelling with a small group of people in the region of Lower Saxony. He knew of a community of pagans near Geismar who, in the middle of winter, would make a human sacrifice (in which the victim was usually a child) to Thor, the god of thunder, at the base of an oak tree which they considered sacred and which was known as “The Thunder Oak.” Boniface wished to destroy the Thunder Oak not only to save the victim but to show the heathens that he would not be struck down by a lightning bolt at the hands of Thor.
They arrived in the village on Christmas Eve just in time to interrupt the sacrifice. With his Bishop’s staff in his hand, Boniface approached the pagan crowd and said, “Here is the Thunder Oak, and here the Cross of Christ shall break the hammer of the false god, Thor.”
When the executioner raised his hammer to execute the little boy, the Bishop extended his staff to block the blow, and miraculously broke the large stone hammer and saved the boy’s life.
Afterwards, Boniface is said to have spoken to the people like this: “Listen, sons of the forest! No blood will flow tonight, except the one that pity has drawn from a mother’s breast. For this is the birth-night of Christ, the son of the Almighty, the Savior of mankind. He is fairer than Baldur the Beautiful, greater than Odin the Wise, gentler than Freya the Good. Since He has come, sacrifice is over. The darkness, Thor, on whom you have vainly called, is dead. Deep in Niffelheim’s shadows he is lost forever. So now tonight you shall begin to live. This blood tree shall never darken your land again. In the name of God, I will destroy it.”
Then Boniface picked up an axe that was nearby, and according to the legend, when he wielded it powerfully towards the oak, a great gust of wind arose through the forest and knocked down the tree with roots and all. The tree fell to the ground and broke into four pieces.
The “Apostle of Germany” continued to preach to the Germanic people who were astonished and could not believe that the killer of Thor’s Thunder Oak had not been struck by their god. Boniface looked beyond where the oak lay and pointing to a small fir tree, he said, “This little tree, this little child of the forest, will be your holy tree tonight. This is the wood of peace… It is the sign of an endless life, because its leaves are ever green. See how it points upward to heaven. Let this be called the tree of the Christ-child; gather round it, not in the wild forest, but in your homes; there it will be shelter and there will be no bloody acts, but loving gifts and rites of kindness.”
And so, the Germans began a new tradition that night, which has spread to this day. By bringing a fir tree into their homes, decorating it with candles and ornaments, and celebrating the birth of the Savior, the Apostle of Germany and his flock gave us what we now know as the Christmas tree. (Source: Church Pop)
Gradually, the tradition has evolved: Christmas balls and fairy lights that represent the joy and light that Jesus Christ brought to the world were placed on the tree.
Today, Christmas ball ornaments symbolize the prayers we say during Advent. The blue ones are prayers of repentance, the silver ones, of thanks, the golden ones, of praise, and the red ones, of petition.
At the top of the Christmas tree it is customary to place a star which represents the faith that should guide our lives.
Ornaments of various figures are also often hung on the Christmas tree. These represent good deeds and sacrifices, the “gifts” we will give to Jesus at Christmas.
To take advantage of the tradition, we could decorate the Christmas tree throughout Advent, explaining the symbolism to the children. Children can make their own Christmas balls (24 to 28 depending on the days of Advent) with a prayer or purpose in each one of them, and they can hang one up on the Christmas tree each day of Advent, until the day of Jesus’ birth.
Set up the Christmas tree at the beginning of Advent, according to Christian tradition.
According to Christian tradition, it is customary to decorate the Christmas tree from the first Sunday of Advent, (December 1st, this year) and keep it up until Epiphany, on January 6th.
In fact, if the fir tree is there to decorate and give a warm atmosphere to our home, it is there above all, to accompany this time of waiting for the birth of Christ.
According to Orthodox tradition, it is set up on December 6th, St. Nicholas Day.