The Honking Goose

something to honk about

if you are a Christian, what do you think about the pagan tradition of a holiday tree?

and if you are a Pagan, what do you think about the Christians using an evergreen tree as a symbol of their Christmas celebration?

Christmas tree on a stand with barely visible lights and no other decoration

I like to think of the evergreen tree we bring into our home, and glibly refer to as a Christmas tree though we are not Christians, as a pagan symbol of the solstice. It seems, however, that the lines are a little more blurry. Many older cultures around the world brought trees or branches or green leaves inside on the winter solstice as a celebration of the return of life as winter begins to wane.

man in jeans and red flannel is pruning a growing evergreen or Christmas tree

Some scholars have put forth the idea that Christians co-opted this pagan symbol as a way to get more pagans to adopt Christianity. That seems believable. Perhaps early Christians had other reasons for using evergreen boughs or trees as a symbol during their winter holiday celebrations. It seems it was a common practice in many traditions.

Babs the house rabbit next to our Christmas tree

took this just now, she wouldn’t smile for the camera

To me, our Christmas tree is my favorite Christmas/Solstice tradition. It’s a symbol of nature’s bounty to provide for all our needs, all year round. The Christmas tree is much appreciated by our house pet, Babs the bunny also. She likes to nibble the lower branches, drink water from the tree stand, and nap under the tree. She might be mystified by our habit of bringing a tree into the house for just one month each year, but she loves it all the same.

Do you celebrate a winter holiday with an evergreen tree in your house? What does it symbolize to you?

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53 comments on “if you are a Christian, what do you think about the pagan tradition of a holiday tree?

  1. thehonkinggoose
    December 11, 2017

    Reblogged this on The Honking Goose and commented:

    From last year

    Like

  2. AlwaysARedhead
    December 10, 2016

    I absolutely love having a real Christmas tree in the house, especially how the family trucks out into the woods and spends the next hour looking for that perfect tree we all have to agree upon. This year we will get two trees since the young man was not home. We are going out again to cut another one, and will put it in the mancave.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. cb
    December 5, 2016

    So many comments. My understanding is that the Christmas tree as we know it was originally a sacrifice to the wood spirits (gods, whatever). A tree was selected, decorated, and then set afire. I don’t know if this was Celtic or Scandinavian in origin, but definitely of Northern European origin. The lights symbolize the burning tree – originally actual candles.

    Like many pagan holidays and rituals the Catholic Church appears to have copied this as well.

    An atheist friend of mine like to say “Keep Saturn in Saturnalia” (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturnalia) an obvious jibe at “Keep Christ in Christmas”.

    The reality is that much of “Christmas” as we know it is an amalgamation of numerous winter festivals and traditions.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. mitchteemley
    December 4, 2016

    Actually, there’s pretty good evidence that Christmas trees–and specifically the lighting of trees–developed independently from pagan tradition. That said, however, it doesn’t really concern me. It’s not where cultural practices come from that matters, but what they mean to us as individuals (1 Corinthians 10:25-29). The moment we start obsessing over where things come from we depart from the real path of faith and end up in an endless warren of rabbit trails. Heck, our days of the week are named after pagan gods! Blessings till it hurts.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. michelle213norton
    December 4, 2016

    I do believe one of the main reasons the Christians put up trees was to avoid persecution (although I could be wrong on this one.) I haven’t decorated for a few years now. My hubby is an atheist (although agnostic may be more accurate,) and I wanted him to see that none of that stuff is important. I never told my son about Santa (other than to tell him he doesn’t exist;) The commercialization bothers me immensely because it detracts from the real meaning. I think it’s kinda funny that everyone celebrates Christmas, whether believer or not. If you feel strongly about not wanting to be associated with Jesus, you should call you celebration a solstice celebration. Otherwise, you’re in on the birthday party like it or not!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • thehonkinggoose
      December 4, 2016

      “I do believe one of the main reasons the Christians put up trees was to avoid persecution ”
      That seems distinctly possible, Christians were in the minority back then.

      “The commercialization bothers me immensely”
      Me, too.

      “you should call you celebration a solstice celebration”
      I do, and I’m trying to get extended family on board, but they don’t always listen. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Like

      • michelle213norton
        December 5, 2016

        I hope I didn’t offend you! I did mean the general you and not you personally!! I know that it’s a cultural thing that may just be impossible to change!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. dbp49
    December 4, 2016

    Since there has always been a mixture of believers and non-believers in my family, my own faith (I’m Christian) has always been a matter personal to myself. If some of the family see the tree as representative of their faith, I’ve always felt that that’s their business, even though I might disagree, which I do. As far as having it in the house, I don’t see how it’s any different than my father telling me how the older Ukrainian farmers would scatter straw on the floor at Christmas, and bring a sheaf of wheat into the house to celebrate the season. They would apparently also scatter peanuts in the straw for the children to find. Whether this had any religious significance other than celebrating life, I really don’t know.

    Like

    • thehonkinggoose
      December 4, 2016

      “even though I might disagree, which I do” – I like how you snuck that in there, you really buried the lead, dbp. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      “Ukrainian farmers would scatter straw on the floor at Christmas, and bring a sheaf of wheat into the house to celebrate the season. They would apparently also scatter peanuts in the straw for the children to find.” – that is so interesting, thanks for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • dbp49
        December 4, 2016

        Now now, it is my page, I’m allowed a few opinions. : (

        Liked by 1 person

        • thehonkinggoose
          December 4, 2016

          I support you expressing your opinions, on my page or yours. I’m grateful to you for sharing your thoughts here.

          Liked by 1 person

          • dbp49
            December 5, 2016

            That is so very kind of you. I trust I shall never give you cause to regret such a generous sentiment.

            Liked by 1 person

      • dbp49
        December 4, 2016

        Actually, it wasn’t on my page, was it? Sorry about that. Oops.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. shatnerian
    December 4, 2016

    If it were up to me, there wouldn’t be much in the way of any Christmas decorations but my wife and 8 year old son are big Christmas fans so I’m outvoted. We do the artificial tree for the simple reason that sometimes we spend Christmas out of town and can’t care for a real tree.

    Is it a tree incompatible with Christianity? Not really. The birth of Jesus is still the heart of the holiday. Everything else, from shortbread to stockings, is just the pleasant ephemera of the season.

    We’re also not religious people. We just like the holiday.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thehonkinggoose
      December 4, 2016

      It’s funny to me that all these traditions are like a mishmash of pagan and Christian traditions that are now mostly celebrated by non-religious people. Even without religion, I think most everyone enjoys tradition and seasonal holidays.

      Like

  8. latskojerry
    December 4, 2016

    I have not celebrated or observed Christmas since 1968 and feel a lot better about myself and life ever since.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thehonkinggoose
      December 4, 2016

      I didn’t want to celebrate Christmas as an adult. I got talked into it by my husband because we had kids. It has felt like a drag and a charade to me. I fear I may have made a mistake by giving in to the ruse. I so sincerely wanted to be different.

      Like

  9. Eugenia
    December 4, 2016

    A Christmas tree signifies light to me and nothing more. It lights up a room with warmth,

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Midwestern Plant Girl
    December 4, 2016

    I am a (new) Druid, and don’t celebrate Christmas in my own house. I do need to pass presents to my 2 nephews, tho.
    I do have evergreen pieces outside my home, to celebrate winter and renewal, nothing god or religious tho. I do love the smell of evergreens and burn many candles with the scent.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. vanbytheriver
    December 4, 2016

    “It’s coming on Christmas, they’re cutting down trees….” Joni Mitchell, The River. One of my favorite songs for this time of year.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Norbert Haupt
    December 4, 2016

    I am an atheist, but I put up a tree every year. When there were children in the house, they liked the association with Christmas. My current significant other also loves Christmas, its traditions, festivities, and the tree. We have a tree every year, it has the standard secular ornaments, there are presents under it, and it has nothing to do with any God, Jesus or religion.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thehonkinggoose
      December 4, 2016

      It is my impression (but I’m not sure because I do live in CA) that what you describe, the nonsecular celebration of Christmas, is much more common than a religious celebration of Christmas. Maybe the lines are blurred though. The extreme commercialization of Christmas seems very unChristian to me (and unPagan as well for that matter). But does it seem unChristian to those who identify as Christian? I don’t know why it worries me, but it does. These are the things that keep me up at night. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Like

      • Norbert Haupt
        December 4, 2016

        I think what passes as being “religious” today is much watered down from what it was 50 or 100 years ago. The vast majority of Americans (some 85%) call themselves religious, mostly Christian, but they do things like elect a flake like Trump for his “family values.” That keeps me up at night. We could use a few more atheists here.

        Liked by 1 person

        • thehonkinggoose
          December 4, 2016

          And mindlessly consuming wasteful material products in the name of celebrating the birth of the humble and non-materialistic Christ. What’s up with that?

          Liked by 1 person

  13. Xena
    December 3, 2016

    I stopped putting up Christmas trees in 1982. I see no correlation between a Christmas tree and the birth of Jesus the Christ. And yes, I am a believer of and in Christ.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thehonkinggoose
      December 4, 2016

      A lot of non-correlations between now-traditional Christmas celebrations and Christianity. But I don’t see many Christians speaking out against the commercialization of Christmas or other aspects. Do you agree? Do you have a church? What is their take on it there?

      I’m just trying to learn. Feel free to answer my questions or not. I respect your beliefs either way.

      Like

      • Xena
        December 4, 2016

        I don’t think it’s my position to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t do regarding Christmas. That’s between them, their god, their family, etc. There was a time when I decorated, bought gifts, etc. and it was not because of anything that anyone said that caused me to think differently. It was a revelation that since that day of Pentecost following his resurrection, the birth of Christ is in believers.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. rugby843
    December 3, 2016

    I love a real tree, the smell takes me back to childhood where I loved the woods.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. joey
    December 3, 2016

    I call it a Yule tree, although people argue with me that it’s a Christmas tree or a Saturnalia tree, and I’m like, whatever, twinkly lights! It’s my absolute favorite part, although baking and wrapping come close. Love the tree! ๐Ÿ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

  16. InspiredbyCherisha
    December 3, 2016

    Some have indicated that this practice is wrong because of the words in Jeremiah 10:1-5. These verses, however, do not apply to Christmas trees, but they do condemn the idolatry practiced in Jeremiahโ€™s day. Godโ€™s people were following the customs of the heathen who cut down trees, shaped the wood into idols, decorated them with silver and gold ornaments, and worshiped them as gods.

    It is important that we keep Christ central and our worship of Him unhindered in our observance of Christmas. However, we do not believe it is unbiblical to have a Christmas tree lighted and decorated in the home or the church. It has been suggested that the branches of the tree pointing upward can signify praise to God. The star at the top can represent the star of Bethlehem. Also, the green of the evergreens has been recognized as symbolic of eternal life, Godโ€™s gift to us through our Lord Jesus Christ.

    There is no connection between the worship of idols and the use of Christmas trees. We should not be anxious about baseless arguments against Christmas decorations. Rather, we should be focused on the Christ and giving all diligence to remembering the real reason for the season – His precious sacrifice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thehonkinggoose
      December 4, 2016

      Okay, good points. Idolatry seems to be relatively uncommon today, as far as I know. As a non-Christian myself, I wouldn’t say I am worshiping the object of our Christmas tree as a representation of a god. To me, the idea of God is much less specific than an individual entity. And the tree represents idea and associations, not a entity. Plus, even if I was worshiping my tree while it is in my house doesn’t mean that if you had a tree in your house you would be doing the same.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Underdaddy
    December 3, 2016

    I think trees with pokey needles are bullshit. My grandad cut a cedar for us one year and we soaped the branches and it sucked. If cedar trees were the ordained tree, atheism would be the beneficiary. Furs are good though, I like a good fur.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thehonkinggoose
      December 3, 2016

      What does that mean “soaped the branches”? Cedar smells beautiful. What is a fur tree? I think my rabbit might like a fur tree okay, as long as it wasn’t rabbit fur.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Underdaddy
        December 3, 2016

        Soaped the branches is a family tradition that apparently no one else has – we shave Ivory soap and add boiling water then beat it into a foam, rub that on the branches and it dries to look like snow and smell like soap and it keeps the needles from falling off as much. B) cedar smell is why we buy boxes made from it but as a holiday tree, ehh. C) I can’t spell for shit, Fir apparently is the correct word. A fur tree would be killer soft and I think we have enough animals around my house to get things done. Lol.

        Liked by 1 person

        • thehonkinggoose
          December 3, 2016

          Wow, I’ve literally never heard of that “soaping the branches” thing before. That’s my new thing I learned today, thanks.

          “Fir apparently is the correct word. A fur tree would be killer soft and I think we have enough animals around my house to get things done.”

          Hahahaha – LOL seriously. Then my kids were like “what’s so funny?” but I didn’t want to tell them that the funny thing was you suggesting in jest that your pets might be turned into a fur tree to commemorate a new holiday tradition!

          Liked by 1 person

  18. zombieapocalypse6
    December 3, 2016

    I’m a Christian and I think they’re probably right about the church adopting and adapting it, just like a lot of other traditions.
    To me personally though, although I do think about the birth of Christ as the “reason for the season”, a lot of Christmas traditions are just about being together with the family. Shopping for, putting up and decorating the tree is all about togetherness.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Melanie
    December 3, 2016

    A very close relative of mine is a Classical History scholar who lived and worked in Rome for almost a decade, conducting history research and language study in five languages. He now teaches languages and classical as well as Medieval history. His research in early Christianity agrees with many scholars: there is ample proof and it is an “open secret” that early Church leaders (Popes, et al) actively co-opted Pagan rituals, holidays, and symbols to ease the conversion of those people to Christianity. They also changed the Sabbath to Sunday (from Saturday) to distance themselves from Judaism. If you consider the tradition and status of Catholic Saints, they correspond to Greek and Roman gods and demi-gods. The birth of Christ was probably at a very different time of year, but the Christmas celebration deliberately corresponds with Yule and Solstice. There are many other examples but these cover the essence of the story.

    As for a Christmas tree: I was raised Catholic but don’t embrace any particular organized religion. We have a Christmas tree for the family at my mother’s house and the classical scholar is usually the one who procures, sets up, and decorates the tree although he is an atheist. We enjoy the tradition at the warmth it signals as a large family of mostly adults converge to dress up my mother’s house for some festivities but it holds no religious significance to anyone. We just like ot.

    Liked by 2 people

    • thehonkinggoose
      December 3, 2016

      Thank you Melanie. You are generously making up for my lack of in-depth research when I wrote this post today. Truthfully, I think it is really lousy of Christians to appropriate all those pagan traditions and symbols. On the other hand, I like to think of it as “jokes on you Christians!” because now they still celebrate all these very pagan traditions. So I’m willing to let it go on that note. Not that they really care what I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Elyse
    December 3, 2016

    The tree is the hardest part of the season for me. I’m already dreading it. The decorations box is full of things given to me, or bought with, people I loved who are no longer around. Is it January yet?

    Liked by 2 people

    • thehonkinggoose
      December 3, 2016

      Aww, I’m sorry Elyse. I honestly like the tree without decorations better. I’m going to leave it undressed for as long as possible. And then just lights. And then ornaments only when we get to really close to celebration day.

      Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on December 3, 2016 by in Culture and tagged , , , , , , , .
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