Thursday, December 14, 2017

Christmas Trees and Jeremiah (eine Jeremiade über einige Fundies ...)

This is a Christmas tree:

Deutsch: Kleinster Weihnachtsbaum der Welt. Dampflok BR89 mit Kühlwagen im Maßstab 1:220.
Weihnacht 2007 jahre
Holger Späing

As you may notice, it does not look like a palm tree, we'll come back to why this is important.

The "Grinch of Advent Past" is called Ken Pullen. Hope he's "recovered" since.

He commented under an essay by RTO, to which I link and under which you will find his well intentioned perhaps, but ill informed comment:

The Story of the Christmas Tree

And here is the comment:

"To all of you so caught up and lost in this tale thinking it so wonderful, and making you 'feel good' and perverting it as if it comes from God and Christ?"

While it is true that some "feel good" may be perverted by the devil, this is not the general source of all that is "feel good".

There is a Puritanic mistrust in beauty which is nearly as fatuous as going after false gods for the sake of beauty - if not more. It is neither Catholic nor Jewish : Catholic holidays and feel good have replaced the Jewish one, but the Jews also had such in the Old Testament (and some still think it is ongoing and keep these). Neither Catholics nor Jews are reducing rest to 52 days per year and reducing the holiday keeping to rest from servile work only, plus possibly prayer. Calvin and his disciples have used the negatives of both to come up with a combined thing more Puritan than either. So, beauty, in and of itself, is not wrong.

Whatever false gods have of it, they have it (through minds of men or from deceits of demons) from the True God, Who is the source of all true beauty.

Ken Pullen would need to consider exactly how a Christmas tree could pervert anything before pulling this kind of accusations.

"The comment from Sabienne below is the only one which has any truth to it."

It is resumed in his resumé just here:

"What should be everyone's source is God's Word. Not some tale from the mind of man to promote further erosion of the truth. Everything anyone needs to know regarding the origin of the Christmas tree and what it really means only need go to Jeremiah 10 and read the first 4 verses and that says it all as clear and plain as anyone needs."

This falls into two parts. A general and a false historic one.

"What should be everyone's source is God's Word."

For the things which are adressed in it, yes. I just had the sadness of seeing a "Vatican II" sectarian deny the historicity of the Wedding in Cana, and I called that denial apostasy (I might add : to Islam, or some other alcohol prohibitionist false religion).

"Not some tale from the mind of man to promote further erosion of the truth."

Well, extra-Biblical tales about historic facts are not all products of "the mind of man" but also of observation of man of what is there before he has a mind about it. Like the stories in the Bible themselves. When Moses wrote about the Exodus, he did not wait for God to dictate, necessarily, he most certainly used his own memory and what he had been told about his childhood and ancestry.

Because a tale is not in the Bible, it does not mean it is false. If Moses could use his memory, so can Christians and even Pagans (when they are not actively misusing it). Besides, you are making a tale from your own human mind (it is not from the Bible) about how to treat tales that are not found in the Bible.

Now, here is the second part, the false historical one:

"Everything anyone needs to know regarding the origin of the Christmas tree and what it really means only need go to Jeremiah 10 and read the first 4 verses and that says it all as clear and plain as anyone needs."

Er, no, they do not. I'll actually give even five verses:

Jeremiah 10:[1] Hear ye the word which the Lord hath spoken concerning you, O house of Israel. [2] Thus saith the Lord: Learn not according to the ways of the Gentiles: and be not afraid of the signs of heaven, which the heathens fear: [3] For the laws of the people are vain: for the works of the hand of the workman hath cut a tree out of the forest with an axe. [4] He hath decked it with silver and gold: he hath put it together with nails and hammers, that it may not fall asunder. [5] They are framed after the likeness of a palm tree, and shall not speak: they must be carried to be removed, because they cannot go. Therefore, fear them not, for they can neither do evil nor good.

A palm tree is very slender nearly all the way to the top, then it broadens out at the top. Take a look at this image of Hathor:

By Jeff Dahl - Own work, GFDL, Link

Or take the fact that Hathor heads decorated columns:

Temple of Hathor at Dendera, Egypt. Hathor Column
between 2005 and 2006
Own work
Steve F-E-Cameron (Merlin-UK)

A column, as general shape, is that of a palm tree. Now, usually in Greek columns, with just plates, scrolls or plants on column heads, there was no idolatry involved in columns themselves, less sure about Caryatides and Atlants. But Ancient Near East can have been different with superstitions attached even to columns in the temples. The one shown on photo is in stone, but wood was used in some lesser temples too, no doubt.

And what about this figurine of Amun?

By Anonymous (Egypt) - Walters Art Museum: Home page  Info about artwork, Public Domain, Link

Slender enough at bottom and if not branching out wide at top, the "hat" looks like palm leaves. I am leaving out idols of Baal which are even closer to the description in Jeremiah. But you can find pictures of them on wikipedia.

A pine tree is clearly the reverse : it is broadest just a bit over the bottom, and it becomes very much more slender near the top. And if you refer to a palm tree bearing fruit, it is not the shape but the function. Also, palm trees are very much not alone in the function, and we'll return to why Christmas trees have fruit, specifically apples.

Getting back to verse 1, while the Church is the heir of Israel, the immediate adressee of above words was Israel of the Old Covenant.

And now, verses 2, 3, 4 : there is no astrology in the Christmas tree, nor is there any need to keep it together by nails. It is usually not decked with gold and silver.

Even a May Pole is - though closer to the palm shape - clearly not feared. If not even a May Pole is what Jeremiah is talking about, how could a Christmas tree be so?

Now, that said, I am less sure of the story given by RTO/TFP is totally correct.

In the seventh century a monk from Crediton, Devonshire, went to Germany to teach the word of God. His name was St. Boniface. He did many good works there and spent much time in Thuringia, a region later to become the centre of the Christmas decoration industry.

Tradition has it that St. Boniface used the triangular shape of the fir tree to describe the Holy Trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The converted people began to revere the fir tree as God’s tree, as they had previously revered the oak.

That much seems very likely, but there is a connection here, which is not clear. There seems to be some reconstruction about the connection between early conversion of Germany and late Middle Ages, instead of sticking to facts given by the story.

By the twelfth century it was being hung, upside-down, from ceilings at Christmas time in Central Europe, as a symbol of Christianity and was referred to as the ‘Tree of Christ’.

I'd like a reference to a Christbaum being hung upside down ...

The first decorated tree was at Riga in Latvia in 1510, while the first Christmas tree came to England with the Georgian Kings from Germany.

Well, there is some time between St Boniface and the 16th C. Moorhead company in Riga, in then Livland.

But the first decorated tree being in 1510 is wrong, now we have earlier references.

Schon im Mittelalter bestand vielerorts der Brauch, zu bestimmten öffentlichen Festlichkeiten ganze Bäume zu schmücken, wie zum Beispiel den Maibaum oder den Richtbaum

This is a reference to the May Pole, not quite the same thing.

Zu Weihnachten wurden in der Kirche Paradiesspiele aufgeführt, weil der 24. Dezember vor der Liturgiereform nach dem Zweiten Vatikanischen Konzil der liturgische Gedenktag Adam und Evas war, an dem im Brauchtum ein Paradiesbaum, der durchaus auch ein Laubbaum sein konnte, mit Äpfeln behängt wurde. Der Apfel diente dabei als Zeichen der Frucht vom Baum der Erkenntnis und erinnerte an den Sündenfall und an die Befreiung des Menschen von der Erbsünde durch Jesus Christus.

(same article)

Ah, yes. At the occasion of Christmas Eve, in Church or outdoors, there was a representation of what happened in Eden, in Genesis 3. There was a tree representing the one Adam and Eve picked a fruit from. And, while a leaf tree rather than a conifer was possible, I am not sure how many leaf trees were available as alternatives to pines. Perhaps hollies - if you consider them as trees rather than as bushes.

The decoration of the tree was apples (the fruit stolen by Adam) and non-consecrated Hosts (Oblaten), which represent the Eucharist which Christ came to give us.

Gold and silver could occur, but secondary, not covering all of it : unlike the craftsmanship described in Jeremiah, you are supposed to see it is a tree.

It seems one of the horrors of Vatican II Liturgic Reform was doing away with December 24 as memorial day of Adam and Eve.

Von 1521 datiert ein Eintrag in einem Rechnungsbuch der Humanistenbibliothek in Schlettstadt: „Item IIII schillinge dem foerster die meyen an sanct Thomas tag zu hieten.“ (Neuhochdeutsche Übersetzung: „Ebenso vier Schillinge dem Förster, damit er ab dem St.-Thomastag die Bäume bewacht.“)

So, Alsatia shows pines risking felling from the day of St Thomas (December 21), meaning the municipality of Schlettstadt probably wanted monopoly on this particular Christmas decoration - for the one in or next to Church. Now to the Moors' Head Companies decorating and then burning Christmas trees:

Von den Schwarzhäuptern in Riga und Reval wurden in der ersten Hälfte des 16. Jahrhunderts gegen Ende der Weihnachtszeit Tannenbäume auf den Markt getragen, geschmückt und zum Schluss verbrannt.

I am not sure you have heard one of the recent accusations against Christendom, that in the Middle Ages it was heavily against Black People. Check out the Moorhead emblem:

Deutsch: Schwarzhäupterwappen im Schwarzhäupterhaus Riga
August 2009
Own work

Looks like Jamaica, perhaps Mauritius, but it is in Riga.

Yes, a moor's head, through misunderstanding of the name, probably, was the emblem of the Roman Martyr St Mauritius.

Why were Christmas trees burnt after being used for decorations? Well, at the end of the Christmas season - in the Middle Ages of Riga it could have been, like still in Sweden, Octave of Epiphany, January 13 (some parts of Catholic France even extend it to February 2, Candlemass) - Christmas season is over and continuing to show forth the signs of Christmas while being really obliged to another season of the Church year, namely pre-Lent and Lent, would be heresy. The Christmas trees were burnt lest they should fall into heresy.

But I am waiting for a reference for Christmas trees hung upside down in Central Europe in the 12th C., though I could of course google or ask someone on Atlas Obscura if they have sth. Meanwhile, the Grinch is answered.

Hans Georg Lundahl
BU de Nanterre
St Nicais of Rheims or
Day after St Lucy

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