Ah, the Christmas tree. Those beautiful firs, pine, and spruces. Decorated with twinkling lights, shimmering garlands, and glittering orbs that set the soul alight and at ease. But, where did this tradition come from? Why is it that every year we invite a large tree into our house, decorate it, and put presents under it in the name of “tradition?” Where did this tradition stem from?
It was not until the 16th Century in Germany, that we start to see appearances of this incredibly recent tradition of a Tannenbaum (Christmas tree) during Christmas time. Contrary to popular belief, the Christmas tree has little with how the Christmas we know today is celebrated, and the roots of the tradition have nothing to do with a baby in a manger.
Trees have always been and are of central importance in Germanic faith. In Nordic tradition and folklore, Yggdrasil (World Tree) was worshipped as being a link between Asgard (Heaven), Midgard(Earth), and Niflheim (Underworld) along with the other 6 worlds. A full description of Yggdrasil is deserving of its own post and as such shall be saved for another time. However, for the purpose of describing the Christmas tree, it is important to acknowledge the sacredness of trees in Germanic faith and their representation of the connection of the “higher” and “lower” realms within our own World.
Often in the middle of cities, trees would be erected to create an “energy vortex,” or place of power to protect the towns and its people. During Christmas time, the trees would be adorned with real candles (and we thought our trees today were a fire hazard!), and people would gather by the trees, especially in “Sacred groves” and hold rituals to raise energy or bring down energy from the heavens. The Germanic tribes were fond of all trees as they were related to the same symbolism as the World Tree, but they particularly were fond of Oak trees because of their correlation to Odin, the All-Father. It was in the 8th Century that St. Boniface convinced these tribes to turn their attention to the Fir tree instead during Christianization in dedication to the Christ Child. The Evergreen tree became symbolic of everlasting life, but the Germanic interpretation of the trees symbolism was still much deeper than that and remained for some time.
Much symbolism was attributed to the trees ability to send water up from the roots into the leaves, then back down through the trunk and into the ground. Water is a representation of fate, and as such reflected how fate weaves itself through our lives. Though fate is predetermined, and with each passing season it will rise and fall, we have the ability to choose the direction our life goes and how we show up for our fate. Which leaves we will nourish and which leaves we allow to follow away. We, like the tree with glucose, choose how much we store and draw our power from the light to carry us through the dark times. By putting our best selves forward, living in line with our virtues and values, we can change the energetics of the water that flows through us. The waters of fate. And as these waters retreat back into the Earth during the colder months, they are ending the light that has been absorbed to our past traumas and karmic connections, healing and transforming them so that we may carry ourselves into the new year renewed and free of burdens.
The Christmas tree is much more than a promise of everlasting life. It is a reminder of our inherent connection to all dimensions, and the power we hold within as we move forth through each day. It is a reminder of our connection to light, source energy, and how these powers can release us from all of our past traumas if we choose to live virtuous lives and take responsibility for our actions, Here and Now. The Christmas Tree is a reminder to take time to rest and heal before bursting forth anew, striving towards new growth, and a reminder that a time must come when we offer up the fruits of our labors to make room for new.
This year, as you gather around the Christmas Tree, think of Yggdrasil and the sacredness of this symbol sitting in your living spaces. Be reminded of the power trees hold inside of them and how that power is reflected in your own Being. Whether your tree is real or plastic, the symbolism will remain and be a motivation to go forth into the new year with responsibility to our intentions and trust in the cycles of life and rebirth.