It’s the first Sunday of Advent, the new Liturgical year begins and the whole journey from Galilee to Bethlehem, to Jerusalem and beyond begins.
We are supposed to stay awake and be ready. As part of that getting and being ready our family set about putting up the Christmas decorations and getting the house sorted and ready. It’s a bit like getting ready for a very special visit. We want the place to look good and sparkly, so that the Guest, when He comes knows He is welcome.
Alex puts up the Christmas tree and the children help to decorate it. We often make popcorn and cranberry strings to hang. Iona makes gingerbread and chocolates to hang on it. We have some old baubles that come from the tradition of hanging apples on the trees in times past.
The tradition of the Christmas tree comes from the mission of St Boniface to the Germans. He left his home in Devon and headed off to bring the Light of Christ to the pagan Germans. He found them worshipping some pretty nasty gods> Wotan apparently liked to have gifts left for him on a sacred oak tree, and these gifts included sacrificing children. Boniface took and ax and chopped the offensive tree down so that it and it’s god could claim no more victims.
It seems to have been a remarkably common practice in pagan times to offer children to the gods in return for wealth and prosperity. (Molech, Saturn, Crom Cruach, Wotan, that god of the Aztecs…the list goes on)
You would think that Boniface and his fellow monks would have been attacked by the Wotan worshippers when they saw their tree hacked down like that, but it is told that a fir tree sprang up from the roots of the destroyed oak. The fir was an evergreen symbolising the eternal life of Christ. St. Boniface added some lights to it so he could teach the people about Christ in the dark nights and have some light.
Fir trees were used by Christians in Germany at Christmas from that time. Some were hung upside down from the ceiling apparently. [picture credit]
So, don’t forget St Boniface and his ax. If you get wrapped up too much in what piles up under the tree and forget the Man whose birthday it is, maybe it’ll be St Boniface with his ax coming down your chimney instead of St Nick.