THE CHRISTMAS season has just began.

As early as September, I began seeing a number of public establishments already adorned with fancy Christmas decorations in anticipation of the season.

But despite the same variety of ornaments hanging on street posts, mall windows and residential doors, what always appear unique are the Christmas trees.

Adorned with metallic balls, wrapped in glittery ribbons, bordered with sparkling colored lights, and topped with an illuminated yellow star, the Christmas tree will always be the definitive Yuletide icon.

Ironically speaking, although we are used to having Christmas trees built in every home, we still find ourselves unfamiliar with the icon’s roots and real significance.

In the past, tree-cutting for indoor decoration was actually considered pagan. The prophet Jeremiah argued that the practice of cutting down trees, bringing them home and decorating them, defies the nature’s divine order and constitutes some form of idolatry.

But in using the fir tree, St. Boniface of Fulda argued otherwise.

In converting the Northern Germanic tribes to Christianity, St. Boniface persuaded the pagans to venerate the fir tree instead of the oak tree they used to worship. He associated the fir trees’ triangular shape to introduce the idea of the Holy Trinity to the pagans.

Meanwhile, evergreen trees were also used in some parts of Europe as Christmas trees because of its healthy green color that appears to stand the harsh winter. Since the Yuletide coincides with the cold winter season, the evergreen branches placed inside the house became symbols of hope reminding people that life can endure the harsh season.

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Just as the Romans used to decorate their homes with greens during the winter solstice to honor their god Saturnus, early Egyptians would decorate their dwellings with green palm leaves to symbolize life’s triumph over death. The Germans and Scandinavians, too, started the practice of erecting Christmas trees inside their homes to show hope for the forthcoming spring.

Later on, Christmas trees got to be decorated with hollies and mistletoes. Druids of Britain would use evergreens in their winter solstice rituals, decorating them with hollies and mistletoes as symbols of eternal life.

The first known modern Christmas tree was built in Riga, Latvia in 1510, while Martin Luther King was known to start the tradition of decorating Christmas trees with lights to imitate the reflections of a star-lit heaven.

Since then, Christmas trees have been commercially produced. The Christmas tree market was born in 1851, gathering some of the best-selling trees like Scotch pine, Douglas fir, Noble fir, Fraser fir, Virginia pine, Balsam fir, and white pine.

With these accounts on the beginning of Christmas tree, the tradition reached the United States and countries like the Philippines through migration and word of mouth.

Regardless of height or lavishness, a Christmas tree, just like a human being has its own distinction. Whether natural or man-made, tall or short, extravagant or simple, every Christmas tree must be a reminder that with Christ’s birth comes the hope of a new beginning.

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