Pagan Christmas (part 1) – Are Christmas Trees a Non-Christian Tradition?

Each holiday season, a few cynics decry the holiday of Christmas because they have been told that it’s a Pagan holiday. Everything from Christmas trees to the very date of the holiday is scrutinized until Christians appear to be awash in mythological symbolism and mystical rites.

It’s odd to think that the leaders of the church who tirelessly fought Paganism would adopt Pagan practices and lead the church into their use, but everyone thinks it’s fun to look for things like this in church history. Thankfully, this sort of thing happens to be my field, so I’ll be writing a few posts about the nature of this holiday – starting with this article about the Christmas Tree.

Today, blogger Pastor Zach reminded me of something; some people say the Christmas Tree was specifically condemned in the Old Testament:

Hear what the LORD says to you, O house of Israel. This is what the LORD says:

“Do not learn the ways of the nations
or be terrified by signs in the sky,
though the nations are terrified by them.

For the customs of the peoples are worthless;
they cut a tree out of the forest,
and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.

They adorn it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so it will not totter. (Jeremiah 10:1-4)

That’s very cute, but it doesn’t work that way. A look at the surrounding verses shows us that this is a reference to wooden idols that are shaped from the wood of a tree; nowhere does the passage describe something like a Christmas tree.

Most importantly, Christmas trees are simply not heard of in history at this time. It was in the late middle ages when we first see mentions of Christmas trees, so they have no ancient roots.

When you think about it, it’s amazing that this tradition even caught on.

It is often said that the Druids are responsible for the tradition of the Christmas tree, but this is a difficult claim to back up. Historians will tell you that there is one very important thing to remember when discussing the Druids: we don’t know anything about them. After they opposed the Romans, the Romans destroyed every trace of them, and now we only know of them from outside references and hearsay. A claim such as “the Druids invented Christmas trees” is nearly impossible to back up.

So, your Christmas Tree is safe. It’s not a Pagan idol or a Druidic symbol; it’s a family tradition that does not interfere with or contradict your faith.

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