Symbolic Meaning of Christmas Tree – A Brief Summary

Written by avenefica on December 5th, 2007

The symbolic meaning of Christmas trees originates in pagan culture where the evergreen represents life, rebirth, and stamina needed to endure the winter months.

Scandinavian and Norse traditions honored the winter solstice (December 25) by decorating evergreens.  At this time fir trees were also burned to commemorate the life that stirs even in the most frigid grips of winter.  These traditions also marked the end of the old year and the beginning of a new year.

Pagan lore indicates the time between December 25 until about early-mid January are some of the coldest days of the year.  It was believed evil spirits were at their strongest during these months.  To thwart the nasties, evergreens were brought into the home as symbols of protection.  These evergreens were alight with candles, the idea here was to “light up” the darkest, coldest conditions and thereby shoo away naughty spirits. 

 It wasn’t until about the nineteenth century that we find Christianity absorbing the bright, cheery symbolism of the Christmas tree.  The Christians had long held the fir as a symbol of the Tree of Life.  Early Christians knew their symbolism well, as they added candles and apples to their Christmas firs.  These candles represented the light of Christ.  The apples symbolized knowledge which spawned man’s original sin according to Christian belief.  Here we see the light of Christ absolving the “fall of man” within the immortal symbol of the Christmas tree.

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5 Comments so far ↓

  1. Hmmm. Interesting. I never knew how the whole thing started. Kinda makes me wonder if it’s a good thing to have a Christmas tree. I do want to honor Christ in all I do…

  2. avenefica says:

    Hi Beverly, thanks for your comment.

    We can turn to the root of the symbol itself to determine if it is an appropriate fit in our lives.

    In this case, we are investigating the evergreen, which embodies life-affirming attributes such as:

    Rebirth
    Growth
    Development
    Strength
    Endurance
    Promise
    Determination

    If you want to recognize the Christ in all that you do, I feel certain having a Christmas tree is indeed an honorable intent. Ultimately, of course, it’s between you and Christ how you may outwardly express your acknowledgement of his presence.

  3. angunc3 says:

    I have always been intrigued by how Christianity simply “absorbs” symbols and ideas from pagan religions. I have heard about where Christmas trees began, but hadn’t heard about the apple and candle decorations. Thanks for the lesson!

  4. Melissa says:

    Christians don’t “absorb” Pagan symbols. If you look back into history the Pagans took symbols that Christians were already using and used them as well… No one stole from anyone else, unless you were Roman :)

  5. avenefica says:

    Thank you for your observation