Somewhere amid the colored lights and tinsel typically found on a Christmas tree is an age-old tradition. The significance of the Xmas holidays and Christmas tree as a religious symbol tied to the birth of the baby Jesus, actually got its start as a more pagan symbol that honored the winter solstice and the changing of the seasons. Rather than trees with Xmas decorations as we know them, many cultures of the time displayed plants that remained green during the cold winter months. Pine and evergreen saplings among them.
The winter solstice generally falls on December 21st and 22nd in the Northern Hemisphere. Is it coincidence that those days evolved into the Xmas holidays with December 25th as the celebration of the Christ-child? That's an argument for theologians to settle. What is known is that the European tradition of displaying a Christmas tree with Xmas decorations in the home was on the rise, and was well on its way to being a re-occurring tradition. Legend even has it that Martin Luther -- religious martyr of the 16th century - was the first to start hanging Xmas decorations on a Christmas tree in the home. In this case, the decorations were candles. Inspired by the spectacle of seeing thousands of shining stars in the heavens on a clear night, Luther tried to replicate the scene as best he could with the materials he had at hand. And with that, small lit candles became the precursor of electric Christmas lights so popular during the Xmas holidays.
It comes as no surprise that in the 21st century the significance of the Xmas holidays have become lost amid its more commercial aspects. In short, Christmas trees Xmas decorations are big business. Tree farmers are constantly putting new saplings in the ground with the knowledge that they'll be ready 8 or 10 years down the road. Considering the time it takes to grow and mature, Christmas trees of the current Xmas holidays were probably grown back in the mid-1990's or even earlier.
When it comes to a Christmas tree, nothing is perhaps more commercial during the Xmas holidays than a Christmas tree store. The life cycle of a Christmas tree store may only last from November to January, but during those months, the Christmas tree store caters to every shopper's need in terms of decorating a Christmas tree with Xmas decorations. Lights, tinsel, ornaments and candles. The list goes on and on. And with it the sounds of laughter, as store owners laugh all the way to the bank!
Fortunately, Westerners have become a little more ecologically aware over the years. They are even starting to go "retro" as they search for the true meaning of the holidays amid the Christmas story. Maybe it's a nostalgia for their youth or a feeling that something is missing, but many families are re-discovering the Chirstmas story as a link to their once fading faith.
And society may have finally clued in that our natural resources - the Christmas tree among them - are not quick consumable items. It takes years to nurture a tree. Many families have adopted the practice of celebrating with an outdoor Christmas tree during the Xmas holidays. In this way, the tree doesn't get cut down, only to dry up and be used as fire wood or just thrown away with the morning garbage. An outdoor Christmas tree during the Xmas holidays is an intelligent demonstration of being respectful to the earth and its resources.
Artificial trees take conservation one step farther. The price of the tree will pay itself back quickly as the artificial Christmas tree is used over and over again. And some artificial trees actually look better than the "real thing".
Whatever and however people choose to use them, the Christmas tree is a part of our culture that will not be going away any time soon! Happy Holidays everyone!