Creating New Traditions as First Generation Christians – The Christmas Tree

One of the pros of growing up without traditions instilled into my childhood, along with my husband and I being first generation Christians is that we get to pick and choose what we want our family to redeem from culture. 

I can count on one hand how many times our family has put up a Christmas tree. I didn’t really know the significance of it and didn’t take the time to find out. Initially I had to overcome the brainwashing I received growing up that all things related to Christmas traditions were “bad”, “evil” or “pagan”. However once that happened, my husband and I would go back and forth as to whether or not we wanted to start full blown Christmas traditions. 

Our kids, when they were younger, never missed when we did not put up a tree but they didn’t seem too excited on the rare occasion when we did. 

This year, however, things are a bit different. 

For whatever reason, our kids decided they wanted a tree. They began nagging us a few weeks ago that they wanted to put one up so my husband and I prayed about it and started looking at our options.

We…..no – I’m sure my kids and hubs would beg to differ so I better say “I”….I am definitely not the kind of person who will go into the forest and cut one down. No sir….not this gal!

We finally settled on humble 6 foot, plastic, pre-lit tree from Lowes. It was pretty inexpensive so it was a score for my husband. 

We don’t have any ornaments so we are going to have to start from scratch as to what we want on our tree and what we want our ornaments to signify. I want them to be meaningful so I told my kiddos that I want us to be really intentional as to what will go on it. 

We all decided that since Jesus is our gift from our Father in heaven, we recognize that our redeemed lives are gifts as well. With that foundation as our guide we will either buy or make ornaments that will remind us of things, places, or events in our lives that makes us who we are, individually and as a family. 

We are excited with the potential of what we will get over the years to add to our tree. 

I also did a bit of research into the significance and possible origin of the Christmas tree and discovered that Egyptians, Romans and Druids used the evergreen in their various pagan rituals for different reasons. It was also noted that in the Middle Ages, Germans and Scandinavians used evergreens to show their anticipation of spring. 

One possible origin that I discovered is the Tree of Paradise. It is a  medieval play that was put on December 24. This play commemorated Adam and Eve with the use of a decorated tree of apples, which represented the forbidden fruit, and wafers, which signified the Lord’s Supper and redemption. This “paradise tree” was used as the setting for the play and was extremely popular, so much so, the tree was later placed in homes with the “apples” being replaced by round shiny ornaments. 
It’s no secret that I love and appreciate Martin Luther and the boldness he had in his life, so when I came across information that there is a legend concerning him and the Christmas tree, I got super excited. 

Here goes the legend: 

It is said that Martin Luther was responsible for introducing the use of Christmas trees in the home, in Germany. According to the legend, on his way home one evening, Martin Luther was so overcome by the beauty of a fir tree and stars in the sky, he wanted to tell his family about it. However, upon returning home, words failed him, so he went out and chopped one down and brought it home to share with his family. To mimic the stars that hung over the manger where Christ was born, Martin Luther decorated the tree with candle tapers. This was thought to be the first traditional Christmas tree in Germany.  

Martin Luther was so enchanted with Christmas, he wrote a beautiful poem in 1535. Finding this poem was like a potential tradition jackpot for me. 

So, our new tradition starts tonight! (saying that out loud in a very euphoric tone) 

From now on, every year on the day that we put up our tree, I will read this poem to my children before bed. I pray that they will look forward to hearing the poem and learning about the significance of the tree as much as they enjoy putting up the tree. I also pray that they will pass on our new family tradition down to their own children. 

I used to get sad and discouraged around the holidays for not having any traditions to pass on to my kids.  However, God is showing both my husband and I that there is a reason to rejoice in creating new traditions. 

Culture doesn’t get to dictate what we have to do with holidays. 

Jesus dictates what we GET to do with holidays. 

Starting very intentional traditions that we get to share with our kids is something to be thankful for. 

My kids are ecstatic the tree is up. 

My son gets giddy every time he passes by it and says “I can’t believe we have a tree!”

My daughter stops by and sigh’s, very dramatically I might add, whenever she passes by it and express with great enthusiasm “I just love it”. 

We heart our kids! 

please ignore the pile of jackets on my sofa!
A Christmas hymn by Martin Luther:

From Heaven Above to Earth I Come

From heaven above to earth I come
To bear good news to every home;
Glad tidings of great joy I bring,
Whereof I now will say and sing:

To you this night is born a child 
Of Mary, chosen virgin mild;

This little child, of lowly birth,
Shall be the joy of all the earth.

This is the Christ, our God and Lord,

Who in all need shall aid afford;
He will Himself your Savior be
From all your sins to set you free.
He will on you the gifts bestow
Prepared by God for all below,
That in His kingdom, bright and fair,
You may with us His glory share.
These are the tokens ye shall mark:
The swaddling-clothes and manger dark;
There ye shall find the Infant laid
By whom the heavens and earth were made.”
Now let us all with gladsome cheer
Go with the shepherds and draw near
To see the precious gift of God,
Who hath His own dear Son bestowed.
Give heed, my heart, lift up thine eyes!
What is it in yon manger lies?
Who is this child, so young and fair?
The blessed Christ-child lieth there.
Welcome to earth, Thou noble Guest,
Through whom the sinful world is blest!
Thou com’st to share my misery;
What thanks shall I return to Thee?
Ah, Lord, who hast created all,
How weak art Thou, how poor and small,
That Thou dost choose Thine infant bed
Where humble cattle lately fed!
Were earth a thousand times as fair,
Beset with gold and jewels rare,
It yet were far too poor to be
A narrow cradle, Lord, for Thee.
For velvets soft and silken stuff
Thou hast but hay and straw so rough,
Whereon Thou, King, so rich and great,
As ’twere Thy heaven, art throned in state.
And thus, dear Lord, it pleaseth Thee
To make this truth quite plain to me,
That all the world’s wealth, honor, might,
Are naught and worthless in Thy sight.
Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,
Make Thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
Within my heart, that it may be
A quiet chamber kept for Thee.
My heart for very joy doth leap,
My lips no more can silence keep;
I, too, must sing with joyful tongue
That sweetest ancient cradle-song:
Glory to God in highest heaven,
Who unto us His Son hath given!
While angels sing with pious mirth
A glad new year to all the earth.

Notes: #85 The Handbook to The Lutheran Hymnal; Text: Luke 2: 1-18; Author: Martin Luther, 1535; Tune: Vom Himmel hoch, da komm’ ich her; Translated by: Catherine Winkworth, 1855, alt.; 1st published in: “Geistliche Lieder” Leipzig, 1539

Disclaimer: For a more thorough write up of the history of the Christmas tree, go HERE.

We understand the history and all the possible pagan origins of the tree, but we have chosen to redeem whatever practices were considered “pagan” in nature. Our good and gracious Father knows that our family will try, to the best of our sinful natured ability, to honor Him with all our traditions. We know that we cannot escape everything in our culture that is pagan in nature, but Jesus came to redeem a sinful people and it’s sinful practices. We have come to realize that as long as our traditions honor God, knowing full well that the word “honor” here is subjective, what we do is redeemable. Jesus is our ultimate and final Redeemer so we can rest that in having faith in Christ for our salvation, knowing that our very faith is a gift, everything we do, with our lives, our traditions and our holidays, is redeemable as well. Hallelujah!!! 

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