Every year at Christmas time, people who “know things” tell us that the Christmas Tree was originated as a Pagan practice. You see this claim pop up every year. But, I hate to break it to the naysayers, it isn’t true.
There is no evidence at all that Pagans put up holiday displays that turned into our Christmas Tree.
On the contrary, there is plenty of proof that it was an invention of western society.
There is evidence that per-Christian peoples decorated trees or used them as a part of their rituals, sure. But there is no evidence that they used them in the same way as we do in western Christmas traditions.
Some detractors of Christianity and the west wave off the Christmas Tree as Pagan because they claim the Romans used the evergreen tree as a symbol of Saturnalia. But this is a “factoid” not a fact, because there is no proof of this in the historical record. Just a lot of people “saying” it is true.
Others say that the Christmas Tree came from the Norse tradition of Yggdrasil. While that idea just could be possible, there is no actual historical proof that it IS true.
So, what is the deal?
According to The Relevant:
The truth is, our modern Christmas tree is just that: pretty modern. The earliest known example comes from France, where a 1576 sculpture shows an evergreen as part of a holiday celebration. Writer Spencer McDaniel theorizes that the evergreen may have originally been included in Christmas celebrations to symbolize Eden’s Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil — including both humanity’s Fall (the tree) and Redemption (Jesus) in the same holiday.
Christmas trees became popular among well-heeled German Lutherans in the eighteenth century, who decorated them with with things like nuts and berries. The Lutherans brought the practice to America where it flourished and became particularly popular among British royals like Prince Albert, Queen Victoria and Queen Charlotte. Apparently, it was briefly very trendy to decorate a tree with candles, but you can probably imagine the issues they ran into there. Fortunately, electric lights were invented shortly after and voila, you have the Christmas tree more or less as we know it today.
That makes the most sense, really.
After all, Christmas as we celebrate it today is a pretty new concept in the scheme of things. While there are some Christmas traditions that reach back to 1539 when German Lutherans placed an evergreen in the Cathedral of Strassburg, the holiday really was a hit or miss thing for more than 200 years until Europeans began to pay it more notice.
In the U.S., Christmas wasn’t really even much of a key holiday until the 1840s. The Civil War also helped begin to enshrine Christmas as a key American holiday. Also, remember that Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” was not first published until 1843.
The fact is, Christmas just isn’t really old enough to have been handed down from Pagans.
So, let’s stop all this “Pagan” nonsense, shall we?