How Did Christmas Trees Become Christmas Symbols?
Christmas trees, which are a variety of fir, pine, and spruce trees, are closely linked with the visuals most of us have for Christmas. However, in many ways, the symbol of the Christmas tree seems surprising for the story of Christmas. The development of the Christmas tree as a key symbol begins before Christianity and only long after Christianity established itself in Europe did it become associated with Christmas.
Early Developments Before Christianity
In Northern Hemispheres of Europe, including in Germany, Scandinavia, and other parts of Northern Europe, Yule was traditionally among the most important holidays in the pre-Christian calendar. The Tree of Life is a symbol in many ancient cultures that also as Biblical references. In Northern Hemispheres, much of the landscape would become bleak and short on food during winter. The winter solstice, December 21-22, was celebrate as Yule. This was often a time of feasting and even sacrifice to give thanks to the gods and anticipate renewal of the land as the days begin to get longer and winter ends.
Fir, pine and other evergreen trees were often the only green color present in the landscape, indicating that they had life in them during the depths of winter. The evergreens became symbols of life and renewal and in Old Norse mythology, with evergreens equated with the great mother goddess. Hanging reefs in one's home and other parts of the evergreens was a way to bring luck to the home during a period when death and want were likely.