Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

The origin of Christmas trees

A well-known explanation of the origin of Christmas trees is that given in C.A. Miles’ Christmas in Ritual & Tradition, Christian and Pagan, 1912, p.265, where it is stated that Martin Luther (1483-1546): ‘After wandering one Christmas Eve under the clear winter sky lit by a thousand stars, he set up for this children a a tree with countless candles, an image of the starry heaven whence Christ came down.’

However, an alternative explanation, perhaps more popular amongst Roman Catholics, attributes the origin to St Boniface (c.675-754):

‘It is generally believed that the first Christmas tree was of German origin from the time of St Boniface, and English missionary to Germany in the eighth century.  He replaced the sacrifices to the Norse god Odin’s sacred oak – some say it was Odin’s Thunder Oak – with a fir tree adorned in tribute to the Christ Child.  The legend is told that Boniface found a group of “pagans” preparing to sacrifice a boy near the oak tree, near Lower Hesse, Germany.  He cut the tree down with a single stroke of his axe and stopped the sacrifice.  A small fir tree sprang up in place of the oak.  He told the pagans that this was ‘the tree of life’ and stood for Christ.’

Image: ceramic Christmas tree, on sale in gift shop, Córdoba, Andalucia, Spain, August 2021.

  • Upcoming Events

  • Recent Plants

  • Archives