Last night there was an interesting program on the Catholic Chanel which told the story of how the Christmas tree became associated with Christmas. I had never before heard the story.
There was a priest, Father Boniface, from Wessex, England, during the period 672 and 680 A.D. He traveled to Germany to try to convert the heathens living in that country.
When he arrived, he discovered that they worshipped trees. He told them “Why not worship the power that created the tree rather than the tree itself?”
He was gentle and kind and a man of great courage. There was a certain huge oak tree called the "oak of Thor." The pagans believed it was sacred to their gods. In front of a large crowd, Boniface struck the tree a few times with an axe. The big tree crashed. The pagans realized that their gods were false when nothing happened to Boniface.
The story continues and we are told that beautiful young fir tree sprang from its center. Saint Boniface told the people that this lovely evergreen, with its branches pointing to heaven, was indeed a holy tree, the tree of the Christ Child, a symbol of His promise of eternal life. He instructed them henceforth to carry the evergreen from the wilderness into their homes and to surround it with gifts, symbols of love and kindness.
In his lifetime, Boniface converted great numbers of people. In place of the statues of the pagan gods, he built churches and monasteries. In 732, the new pope, St. Gregory III made Boniface an archbishop and gave him another mission territory in Bavaria where he was killed by the Barbarians. He died a martyr on June 5, 754 but left a great legacy with the magical Christmas tree.
He was later awarded sainthood and has become the Patron Saint of Germany.
So, now you know the rest of the story. I wonder what Saint Boneface would have thought about plastic Christmas trees or attempts by the government to discontinue their use in public venues. I guess the Christmas police will come looking for me now.