October 20th, 2020

Christmas symbols: carols and evergreen trees

By Submitted Article on December 21, 2019.

Submitted by

Rev. Austin Fennell



The Christmas carol may have its beginning when the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest,” as the shepherds made their way to the manger in Bethlehem to find the infant Messiah, Jesus. Pope Thelephorus (A.D. 137) wrote some fine Christmas music in the days when Christians were being persecuted. When the persecutions ended, priests and others began to travel among villages singing carols in order that people would learn about Jesus’ birth. St. Francis and his followers did the same thing, wandering across Europe telling and singing about Jesus birth.


Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition. It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking home one winter evening, he was awed by the brilliant stars twinkling between the evergreens. He recaptured the scene in his home for his family. “O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree…” (“O Tannenbaum,” a traditional carol).

St. Boniface, a monk in Germany, was ignored by some listening to his preaching about God’s love for mankind. He learned that people preferred to worship a huge, old oak tree. He cut down the tree, saying, “See, the oak tree does not love and cannot save you.” He pointed to a small green fir tree. “Notice,” he said, “that the green fir tree will never lose its leaves and will be forever green. God’s love is like that.”

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