Christmas trees have become a staple in a classic Christmas scene, but do they really pertain to the story of Christmas? Christmas is the celebration and remembrance of Christ the Savior’s birth. Traditional Nativity scenes typically include camels, lambs, a bed made of hay for Baby Jesus, but how do Christmas trees come into the picture? Could it be that like candy canes, there is a deeper metaphorical connection to Jesus’s birth and life than merely just a lush pine to place presents under?
What Does the Bible Say?
To fully grasp the significance of the birth of Christ, it is vital to look to His death and resurrection, and the same goes with traditions carried out throughout the Christmas season. 1 Peter 2:24 shares most vividly, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” The cross in this context is referred to as a tree, a tree that carried the Man who would die for all sins and usher forth forgiveness to all of mankind.
In Prophecy, Isaiah compared Jesus to a tree by relaying, “Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.” (Isiah 11:1). The reminder that Jesus came of the lineage of David, like a seed coming from an upstanding family tree. These verses pour into the later tradition of the Christmas Tree.
Christmas Trees: Christian or Folklore?
A pine cut down was first popularized by the Germans in the seventh century. Once a Pagan tradition for the Winter Solstice, St. Boniface sought to connect with the people of Germany in a way that they could relate. St. Boniface was a missionary to the Germanic people and helped to shape this once Pagan tradition of trees as a Christian rooted celebration of Christ’s birth. (ChristmasTreeHistory.net).
The Christmas tree being in the shape of a triangle was thought to represent the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A story handed down has carried that Martin Luther was one of the first to place lights or candles on a tree, representing the Light of Christ. (History.com). Christmas trees were symbolic as a metaphor that Jesus died and rose again in splendor in the same way a tree was cut down to its own death to be placed upward again in glory and splendor. The gifts surrounding would represent the greatest gift that Jesus gave to us of His glory, forgiveness, and love.
Christmas Trees in America
Christmas trees were first introduced to America around the mid-1700’s as German immigrants crossed the Atlantic to a land of new hope and freedom. Like many American customs, European roots played a key and vital role to the classic American Christmas known today. The tradition of Christmas trees also swept throughout Europe throughout the 1700-1800’s with unveilings in Vienna in 1816 and France in 1840. The German roots of Queen Victoria of England and her husband, Prince Consort Albert, invoked the couple to bring such legacies to Buckingham Palace. The once centralized tradition of seventh century Germany would soon be a beloved piece of worldwide celebration at Christmas.
With original Pagan roots, the question arises, is it in correct standing with the Bible to place a Christmas tree up during the Season of Advent? As with any action or decision, 1 Corinthians 10:23 can be considered, “’I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive.'” All things are permissible, but it is rooted in the discernment and wisdom of God given by the Holy Spirit if indeed such actions are of benefit in a life following Christ Himself. The Christian metaphor of resurrecting a chopped down tree to adorn it with greater glory does represent Christ’s greatest gift to all mankind, a gift that began at Christmas. This is a belief held firm by many believers but may not resonate with all believers in Christ Jesus. Through prayer, discernment, and obedience in asking Christ Himself, a peace that exceeds all understanding may come. For God is not a God of confusion, but a God of order and peace. (1 Corinthians 14:33).
The Christmas season is a beautiful time of reflection of the year that has passed, and a new year to come, but more than anything the reminder of what Christ did for all of mankind in humbling Himself as a mere child to be the Savior of the world. For many, His humbling as a seed to grow as a great tree to be chopped down and rise again is best represented in a Christmas tree. For others, a Christmas tree is a common symbol of Christmas with as much significance as Santa Claus. All in all, it comes down to the revelation and reassurance of seeking out tradition with God Himself to create a legacy of Christ inspired custom within one’s family.
Holy Bible, NIV
Cally Logan is a writer and sixth grade English teacher from Richmond, Virginia. She graduated from Regent University with a degree in English with High Honors. Currently she is a writer for Polished ministries, and head of the Dear Sparrows Ministry site, and the podcast, “Dear Sparrows.” In her free time she enjoys leading a High School girls small group, cooking, and spending time in tree houses. Her latest book, “Dear Young Sparrow” is available everywhere or at DearSparrows.com.
This article is part of our larger Christmas and Advent resource library centered around the events leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ. We hope these articles help you understand the meaning and story behind important Christian holidays and dates and encourage you as you take time to reflect on all that God has done for us through his son Jesus Christ!
What is Christmas? Understanding History, Origin and Traditions
Christmas Eve History and Traditions
The History of Santa Claus: Origin of St. Nicholas & Christmas Traditions
When Was Jesus Born? History of December 25th
Where Was Jesus Born? 5 Things to Know about Bethlehem
The Birth of Jesus: Bible Story and Scripture Verses
Why Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh Were Given to Baby Jesus
What is Advent: Definition & Meaning Behind Christmas Tradition
Advent Wreath & Candles – Understanding the History, Meaning, and Tradition
The History and Meaning of the Advent Calendar
Christmas Bible Verses & Scripture Story
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/Strike0