Your donation directly supported the critical reporting you rely on, the consistent reporting you believe in, and the deep reporting you want to ensure survives. Folk religion is all those beliefs and practices that exist alongside of the official religion,” Noonan says. If it means anything to which religious significance can be attached, then yes, because many Christians have attached religious significance to the Christmas tree (e.g., the Tree of Life, both in Eden and on Calvary). However, the parallels with Jesus as a sign of hope and light are clear, he says. Since non-religious decorations are permissible, there is always debate over whether a Christmas tree is a religious symbol. Other stories claim that the addition of a cardinal to your Christmas tree will bring cheer, … Most people usually set up their own Christmas tree a month or weeks before the Christmas day. There are some who also argue that menorahs can be interpreted as a nondemoninational symbol of light and hope. With that in mind, if an association allows a Christmas tree and … The earliest legend of the origin of a fir tree becoming a Christian symbol dates back to 723 AD, involving Saint Boniface as he was evangelizing Germany. In spite of its pagan roots, the symbol has a long Christian history. The star is one of the most recognizable symbols of the holiday. Bretzke, who is 65 and grew up in a Catholic community outside Milwaukee, says he can’t remember there never being a Christmas tree at church. Christmas Trees. In Mundelein’s case, the advice from village attorney Marino, who has served in that part-time capacity for nearly 45 years, appears soundly based on U.S. Supreme Court precedents and the court’s distinction between secular symbols, such as the Christmas tree, and religious symbols, such as the Christian creche or the Jewish menorah. It makes good sense, she says, “If you’re in pre-modern Europe, in an agricultural society, you’re not doing much on the farm this time of year, it’s cold and it’s dark and everything is white [with snow]. It depends on how religious symbol is defined. And when asked if they saw religious meaning in the 80-plus-foot-tall tree, most of them said, not really. It represents the star that appeared in the sky when Jesus Christ was born. The beautiful red feathers have earned the cardinal the title of the Christmas bird. It really depends on how you define a religious symbol.If by that you mean anything to which any religious significance at all can be attached, then yes, since many Christians have indeed attached religious significance to the Christmas tree (e.g., the Tree of Life, both in Eden and on Calvary). Tradition holds that a fir tree was growing in the roots of the oak, and Boniface claimed the tree as a symbol of Christ. The Christmas tree symbolizes the spirit of the Christmas season and, to Christians, the everlasting life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. “It might have been pagan, but now is Christian. But historically speaking, Noonan says there is evidence of Christmas trees from at least the early 1500s in Germany. They played a symbolic part because they stayed green and alive when other plants appeared dead and bare. ABA Legal Fact Check debuted in August and is the first fact check website focusing exclusively on legal matters.This article has been republished with permission. Noonan says there is one popular legend about Martin Luther coming up with the idea after gazing through an evergreen tree at night and seeing the stars twinkling through its branches. The only controversy stirred up over trees, he says, came when someone suggested that his parish get an artificial tree instead of a fresh-cut one. So, you really appreciate those trees that are evergreen.”, “They remind you that winter is not going to last forever, and they cheer everything up.”. Many people say, not really. The angel represents the role of angels in the birth of Jesus. The tradition of decorating a tree is embraced by millions of people worldwide of different faiths and cultures. The thing about Christmas trees is, if you look at their long history, there’s a great deal of religious significance attached to them. With Christmas being primarily known as a Christian holiday, it’s no wonder that one of the most recognized Christmas tree decorations is the Christmas angel tree topper. What led Christians to adopt this custom? But she says she still has one at her home with presents underneath it for the kids. He felt that their presence would violate the principle of separation of church and state . Once your community displays a religious symbol, then there is a good chance your community will need to allow other requested religious symbols to avoid a claim of religious discrimination. They represented everlasting life and hope for the return of spring. In 2004 John Paul II called it a symbol of Christ, saying the green life of the tree in in winter … Christmas tree, live or artificial evergreen tree decorated with lights and ornaments as a part of Christmas festivities. Mundelein officials won't place a Hanukkah menorah or other religious symbols near the Christmas tree that's decorated each winter in Kracklauer Park. … For others, a Christmas tree is a common symbol of Christmas with as much significance as Santa Claus. They did not become widespread in the English-speaking world until German relatives of the British royal family brought the custom to Great Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries. Boniface said, "le… Even today in many traditionally Catholic countries, far more emphasis is placed on the much older Christian custom of erecting Nativity scenes, a tradition attributed to St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226). Thank you all for helping us reach our goal of 1,000 donors. I certainly don't want to raise my children to celebrate pagan traditions. That doesn’t cause me any distress.”. Originally derived from pagan religious celebrations in Europe, the Christmas Tree was adopted by Christianity but never entirely at home in it. Watch Queue Queue We use cookies to understand how you use our site and to improve your experience. Christmas tree as a symbol. The Christmas tree has become a symbol of the spirit of Christmas in many countries and many, if not all, our homes. Every morning, the editorial team at public radio’s international news show The World meets to plan what they'll cover that day. A Christmas Symbol. Some experts think the practice came from Finland, she says, and then spread to other parts of Europe. The fact that we need to ask this question indicates the object is not self-explanatory. Although civic buildings tend to veto religious expressions of the holidays, Los Angeles City Hall has put on display a Christmas tree and a menorah. However, in many ways, the symbol of the Christmas tree seems surprising for the story of Christmas. “However, the Romans, during Saturnalia brought in leafy greens and boughs and decorated their homes. A green, thriving tree in the dead of winter reminded people of hope and new life. In early times, Christmas tree was considered as the “Tree of Life” which symbolizes life and universe. The same is true with a Christmas tree. Is the Christmas tree a religious symbol? However, it has been an annual tradition there ever since. Unfortunately, we don’t always give it a religious meaning. Christmas has been celebrated as a Christian holiday dating back to A.D. 336.But it has also become an international phenomenon whose widespread popularity supersedes both its religious and pagan origins.. Did you know that, while 70% of the planet’s population is not Christian, nearly 80% of the world’s countries observe Christmas traditions in one form or another? Christmas trees had been a tradition in his home country of Poland, but it wasn't yet a tradition at the Vatican. A village attorney in Illinois had to weigh Supreme Court precedent when he concluded a Christmas tree in a public park was a secular symbol, according to ABA Legal Fact Check. However, starting year 700, the pagan tree was replaced by a fir tree which was considered a symbol of Christianity. Not until the Renaissance are there clear records of trees being used as a symbol of Christmas—beginning in Latvia in 1510 and Strasbourg in 1521. The Christmas tree is the most visible and frequent symbol for Christmas. The most popular symbol of Christmas, except perhaps for Santa Claus, may also be the least Christian: the Christmas Tree. History of Christmas Tree. THE … THE … By Christmas symbols we mean the various objects that bring the remembrance of deep convictions related to Christianity. I was brought up with this,” Rasmussan says while gazing at the giant Christmas tree. Few know its use by pagans of any era. Christmas tree in Bethlehem, behind it Church of the Nativity, 2014. “When I see a Christmas tree, it’s all about the festivity,” says Jyothi Davuluri of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. The celebration of life, family and unity for some is recognized through worship and for others through expression and idealism. From its roots grew a fir tree which Boniface took as a sign of the Christian faith. Learn more about Christmas trees, including their history. While it is still a symbol of Christianity to some, to others it is simply part of December celebrations. “I may not have the [same] religious background, but I still see Christmas trees as such a nice, festive thing and I want to continue for my kids,” Davuluri says with a smile. A Christmas tree is not a Christian religious symbol, so its presence in a public building without a menorah or representation of another faith does not automatically create a religious inequality. The World is a public radio program that crosses borders and time zones to bring home the stories that matter. Behind the fallen tree was a baby fir tree. From its roots grew a fir tree which Boniface took as a sign of the Christian faith. All of Christmas has been profanely secularized, but it is not the use of the tree that is to blame. Before electric Christmas tree lights were invented, families would use candles to light up the tree. Some of our editorial board members begged to differ. To learn more, review our Cookie Policy. Thus, the Court found that a Christmas tree, by itself, is not a religious symbol; although Christmas trees once carried religious connotations, “ [t]oday they typify the secular celebration of Christmas,” the Court provided. A Christmas Symbol. In late summer of 2017, a resident asked the village board of Mundelein, Ill., a northwest suburb of Chicago, to place a Hanukkah menorah in a public park next to the traditional Christmas tree. Today the Christmas Tree can be a completely secular symbol of Christmas celebrations. They represented everlasting life and hope for the return of spring. The story you just read is freely available and accessible to everyone because readers like you support The World financially. Christians justified the custom on religious grounds by explaining that the evergreen tree can symbolize eternal life. But the evergreen tree naturally fits in with Christianity. Watch Queue Queue. And she has a Christmas tree at home too. It’s hard to go anywhere during Christmas without seeing stars hanging from street lamps or sitting on top of Christmas trees. If it is agreed that a religious symbol should be understood to mean a tangible object intrinsically attached to that holiday, then Christmas trees are to Christmas what dreidels are to Hanukkah—a beloved custom but not a religious symbol. Village attorney Charles Marino provided this guidance: “My (legal) research has indicated that a Christmas tree or a holiday tree is secular,” he told the Chicago Tribune. There is also evidence of pre-Christian pagans in Europe who worshipped trees, “and worshipping their deities within groves.”, Noonan says the functional side of all this is compelling too. A 22-year tradition in Georgia is no more — and all because the governing board of a non-profit believes a Christmas tree is a religious symbol. Christmas trees can be brought into a school and decorated because a court has ruled the Christmas tree is a secular object, much like the Jewish menorah. Therefore, since the Christmas tree does not represent a religious symbol to any particular religion, as religious symbols are defined, supports the reason we often see the tree displayed in public places during a particular holiday season. There’s nothing overtly religious about the giant Christmas tree at Faneuil Hall Marketplace in downtown Boston. It is neutral. Roman festivals used a decorated evergreen tree to celebrate the winter time. Needless to say, the people readily accepted Boniface’s message, and the tree would serve as a reminder of the mighty God who was humbly born into the world as a man on Christmas day. Related: Listen to Shirin Jaafari's story about deciding whether she wanted to buy her own Christmas tree. It has long been believed that seeing a cardinal out your window is a symbol of good luck, or even a loved one who has passed away paying a visit. A very serious Christian friend told me that the Christmas tree originated as a symbol of pagan idolatry. Is a Christmas tree really a religious symbol of Christmas equal to a Nativity scene. CHRISTMAS TREE: In the early 700’s, Saint Boniface, who converted the German people to Christianity, demolished the Oak of Thor, the mighty sacred tree worshipped by the Saxons. “We see it as a Christian symbol first, and you learn that it wasn’t always a Christian symbol later in life,” says Father James Bretzke, a professor of moral theology at Boston College. This year, however, I'm having doubts. Back in 2005, the city did just that. Other stories claim that the addition of a cardinal to your Christmas tree will bring cheer, … A Christmas tree is a decorated tree, usually an evergreen conifer, such as a spruce, pine, or fir, or an artificial tree of similar appearance, associated with the celebration of Christmas, originating in Germany associated with Saint Boniface. More broadly, she says she thinks about what it means to be a Christian. Yes, the Christmas tree has some connection with their religion, but they don’t really see it primarily as a religious symbol. Christmas Tree. These dramas were held outside during the Advent and Christmas seasons and … If it means anything to which religious significance can be attached, then yes, because many Christians have attached religious significance to the Christmas tree (e.g., the Tree of Life, both in Eden and on Calvary). Christmas symbols in my own house make me feel gross.. my wife, who grew up Christian, wants a Christmas tree. The Christmas tree is a religious symbol, one designed to turn men’s thoughts to God in a manner of human devising. I tried to get some insight from people in r/athiesm , but I truly believe these people are culturally ok with christmas since most of them grew up with christmas. Some people -- and some courts -- believe that Christmas trees are now a secular expression of holiday festivities. The lights and decorations on the tree represent the wonder and glory associated with the birth and resurrection of Jesus. Marino said the tree “is not a religious symbol. Christmas tree is one of the most popular Christmas symbols. If it means anything to which religious significance can be attached, then yes, because many Christians have attached religious significance to the Christmas tree (e.g., the Tree of Life, both in Eden and on Calvary). Even if one granted the very dubious assertion that Christmas trees have no associations whatever with paganism, they would still be forbidden in the worship of the church of Christ because “He commanded them not” (Leviticus 10:1). Want to see what's on deck? I am having a hard time explaining why a christmas tree makes me feel like a phoney. Christmas trees had been a tradition in his home country of Poland, but it wasn't yet a tradition at the Vatican. The development of the Christmas tree as a key symbol begins before Christianity and only long after Christianity established itself in Europe did it become associated with Christmas. "That became a symbol of Christ — being triangular in shape it represents the trinity — and from there came the idea that the tree should be a symbol of Christ and new life," Dr Wilson said. Read more: Christmas trees, to deck the halls I have a rather eclectic Christmas tree. 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