Oh! Christmas Tree
by Ron Kitson
Itís been reported there are a growing number of people out there who like the idea of a Christmas Tree but would like it better if it were called something else. Some have suggested Holiday Tree, New Years Tree or, Winter Solstice Tree?
Christmas Tree sounds good to me because thatís what itís been all of my life and I wouldnĎt want to change it. However, I can well understand small children of other faiths asking "why canít we have a Christmas Tree" and it may be difficult to explain that to a childís satisfaction.
Actually, as Iíll explain, the custom of decorating a tree at this time of year is a lot older than Christmas. An evergreen decorated for Christmas is a wonderful symbol of peace, joy and good will. The giant Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center is admired by millions who see it on TV, in print or, as in our case, travel to New York City, stand in front of it and gasp at its size and beauty.
We visited Gotham City in early December '07 as did millions of tourists from around the world and many will admit, more than anything else, it was the big tree and Christmas lights along with the likes of Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue decked out for Christmas that attracted them.
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
As did many others, we elevated to the 67th floor of the NBC building and escalated to an even higher observation deck for this view of Central Park.
Central Park from above
But, more than anything else, it is Christmas with all its glamour and excitement that attracts people of all races and religious persuasion to this huge but friendly metropolis this time of year.
To call it the Holiday Season is fine because it includes New Years as well as Holy Days celebrated by people of many faiths, but, to remove or replace the word Christmas altogether, would take so much away from it and further its decline away from what it is today and into nothing much more than a time for office parties and spending sprees.
The tradition of decorating an evergreen for Christmas came to North America from Germany back around 1700. They called it a Tannenbaum which is a Pine or Fir tree or any evergreen tree.
The practice was opposed by Christians centuries ago and in some cases yet today, because the custom was born of Paganism. Early people worried about the days getting shorter in the fall and prayed to their various gods to save Olí Sol.
Following what we now call the Winter Solstice, they were able a few days later, even without a Westclox, to somehow determine the days were indeed getting longer again and the nights shorter which was always a good excuse for a party. The likes of Adonia got all the credit for saving the sun from its feared demise since nothing on earth is more needed and appreciated than the sun.
(According to www.religioustolerance.org, "The first decorating of a Christmas tree began with the heathen Greeks and their worship of their god Adonia.")
Legend has it that Martin Luther chopped down the first Christmas tree back around the 17th century, dragged it into his home and decorated it with candles. Once lit, they represented the stars that glistened off the snow laden bows of the Tannenbaum as it stood proudly in the forest.
However, one canít help but question that story, considering Martin Luther died on the 18th of February in 1546. The earliest German documents referring to a Christmas tree are apparently from the very early 1600s.
By the time Christianity had become dominate, there was a somewhat better understanding of the winter solstice and the celebration of the birth of Christ transformed the event into what we now call Christmas.
Although the Pagan custom of decorating for the holiday was initially forbidden by Christian leaders, it has never the less continued to gain in popularity to the point where some feel the need to oppose it because itís "too Christian."
A decorated evergreen by any other name is still very nice and regardless of what you celebrate this time of year, if some of you would like to decorate an evergreen tree and call it something else, that's fine with me but please let us have our "Christmas Tree."
To all of you, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or whatever you are celebrating. Also, sincere wishes from the Kitson family for a happy and healthy New Year.
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