Christmas Eve is here and many Croatians will be decorating the tree today. Yes, whilst the Christmas trees have been standing in the corner of living rooms across the world for weeks, many Croatian families wait till the last minute to dress the tree. This isn’t due to some forgetfulness or even laziness, it’s another one of the Christmas traditions.
At the mention of Christmas, many will first think of decorating the Christmas tree and the gifts that will greet them under it. There are several theories and myths about when and how the custom of decorating the Christmas tree began and why it was adopted by the Catholic Church as part of the celebration of Jesus’s birth.
From the ancient Babylonians, through the ancient Greeks, Romans and Persians, to the Germanic pagan tribes, the rebirth of the sun god, or the winter solstice, was celebrated in many cultures. Whether they worshiped Saturn, Mithras, Nimrod, or Thor, an integral part of their festivals was a tree, oak or evergreen, to which, according to some theories, they offered sacrifices to the god they worshiped during the winter solstice.
With the advent of Christianity, people began to accept the teachings of Jesus Christ, but they also retained some pagan customs, and decorating the Christmas tree is considered to be one of them. After the Church designated December 25 as the day of Christ’s birth, the celebration of Christmas replaced the pagan celebration of the winter solstice, and tree decoration was accepted as one of the Christian customs.
Although many believers around the world practice decorating pine trees as an inevitable family custom for Christmas Eve, the homeland of this Christmas tradition is still unknown.
Decorating a pine or, more precisely, a fir tree, according to church records, we can thank St. Boniface, an English monk who founded Christian churches in France and Germany in the 7th century. While teaching the teachings of Christ in Germany, Boniface encountered a group of Gentiles gathered around a large oak tree preparing to sacrifice children to the god Thor. To save the children, Boniface felled an oak tree and a fir tree grew in its place.
Another legend says that Martin Luther himself decorated the Christmas tree with candles in the early 16th century, while in the Middle Ages in some parts of Europe there was a custom of staging a play about paradise in churches during Christmas, during which apples were hung on the tree as a symbol of good knowledge. evil according to the biblical story of Adam and Eve.
The custom of decorating the Christmas tree in our region was taken over by Germanic peoples in the late 19th century, but even then there was a custom of bringing a Christmas tree, a young tree or an oak branch into houses. This custom has remained with Orthodox believers to this day, writes Tportal.