Christmas Trees: An Eternal Symbol of Christmas?

Decorating a tree with spangly baubles is a tradition that dates back to the very birth of Christ himself. As any biblical scholar will confirm, Jesus was born in a pine tree that was heavily bedazzled for the occasion.

Oh, wait. That’s not quite how it went, is it?

In fact, the practice of decorating with pine boughs and trees is a custom that predates Christianity. For example, the Romans enjoyed Saturnalia, a festival that went over several days. It included gift-giving, generosity to the poor, a wee bit of ritual sacrifice and, you guessed it, decorated trees! The Vikings were also fond of decorated boughs. During their mid-winter festivities, the evergreen trees were seen as a potent symbol of life continuing despite the hardships of winter. That’s just a tiny snippet of the history of decorative trees, but you can see they’ve never been a strictly Christian affair.

In fact, decorated trees weren’t really adopted by the Christians until around the 16th century. It was the German Christians who adopted the tradition, but it didn’t really take off for a while. By the 19th century, Christmas trees existed in the US, but Americans thought they were a strange custom. No one else was terribly keen on them until a British Queen with a German husband got a one. Once a family portrait of Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, with their tree hit the papers, the Christmas Tree became the in-thing.

What has people outraged about the humble Christmas Tree right now?

At the moment, it’s the removal of the word “Christmas” from the boxes of the plastic trees sold at Big W.

Christmas tree comment on big w facebook page

People think that Christians invented the decorated tree.

If they aren’t labelled, how will we know what to do with the darn things? Instead, they are being billed as “Fibre Optic Tree” or “Pine Tree” and other unthinkably offensive titles.

Christmas tree comment on big w facebook page

We don’t celebrate PINE. But maybe we should?!

People are baffled, upset and feeling as if the age of political correctness is stealing their religious celebrations. It doesn’t matter that the tree itself has decidedly un-Christian roots (see what I did there?!) because it is an affront to (some) Christians.

Christmas tree comment on big w facebook page

*raises atheist hand*

Some claim that non-Christians don’t even BUY trees, so what’s the point of taking Christ out of it?? I mean, I’m an atheist, raised in a non-religious home, who has had a tree every December for my whole life, but whatever.

Is this really about erasing Christianity from the holiday? Reeeaalllyy????

No, it isn’t. It’s actually something far more sinister than that. You see, Big W is still selling Christmas decorations to adorn their generic, celebratory, plastic pine trees.

Would they do that if they wanted to erase Christianity from Christmas? Of course not! That would be a bad move for business. And surely we know that business is all this is to Big W?! The last census showed “no religion” as on of the fastest growing demographics in Australia. Big W is just making their first move…

The Generic Celebration Tree Conspiracy

Christmas tree comment on big w facebook page

Oh, Megan. By next year, they’ll all be on board!

Soon, generic celebration trees will be available year-round. The quality will probably decrease, meaning fewer uses per tree. But you will need more uses for what these big retailers have in mind! For each festive occasion, we will see an onslaught of themed baubles and decorations. Catalogues full of styled, generic celebration trees for every occasion. This isn’t about erasing religion; it’s about a new revenue stream for department stores and dollar shops around the world!

Mark my words, come February, you’ll be considering a Valentine’s Day tree. Forking out your hard earned cash for heart baubles and sparkly cupids. St Patrick’s Day trees will be festooned with pots of gold and leprechauns. How do you think your kids will decorate the Mother’s Day and father’s Day trees next year? And will there be a competition in your neighbourhood for the spookiest Halloween tree?

Christmas tree repurposed for halloween, valentine's day and more!

Artist’s impression of the future of the generic tree.

It won’t end there. Once the first kid from school has a party complete with a personalised birthday tree, the trend will become so widespread that, in a century or two, we won’t remember a festive occasion without a decorated plastic tree. Insatiable retailers are branching out! They’re pining for greater profits! Big stores want evergreen profits! They don’t even care where their greed leaves us!

Repeat after me: Big w is not stealing Christmas.

Do you think decorating a tree for every occasion is ludicrous? A bizarre and unlikely conspiracy? Maybe it is. But it seems far more plausible than a department store that sells loads of Christmas products attempting to erase a religion by omitting the word “Christmas” from the packaging of one of their products. The idea that they are appeasing some minority group who isn’t even campaigning to remove the word “Christmas” from anything makes no sense.

Seriously, no one, not even Big W, is stealing Christmas. The right to practice your religion is literally enshrined in Australian law. If the box doesn’t explicitly say “Christmas Tree” on it, I am sure we will still figure out how to wrap it in tinsel and sling ornaments onto the bendy plastic branches.

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  • The whole thing is such a non issue for me. I don’t recall seeing a tree in the stable, can’t see how any one group of people own it? Stuff is re-branded all the time without so much as a blink of an eye. You would think there were so many other causes worthy of the uproar! I had no idea the origin of the tree, very interesting.

    • Actually reading about the origins was super interesting! Trees were symbolic to many cultures!

  • Well, I’m Jewish (albeit non practising) and I have had a Christmas tree every year of my life. It’s the highlight of my year and now that I’m in Australia, it gets two outings because we celebrate Christmas in July too! I think all these people getting their knickers in a knot over the lack of lexicon on their tree box is most un-Christmassy! Bah humbug! PS Thanks for enlightening me about the origins of the tree – you’re a font of yuletide knowledge!

    • I love that you do Christmas in July- so fun! We have a tree every year and are total heathens. But trees are pretty!

  • I can’t believe people are making such a fuss about this. Haven’t they been called fibre optic trees for years? God, I don’t know. I think these people need to chill out.

    • If they removed all reference to Christmas, I’d understand a bit of confusion. But they haven’t at all!

      • Let’s not forget these are exactly the same people who lost their minds over a cake at Woolworths and at Coca-Cola for declaring their support for marriage equality. If all this outrage-boycotting continues, they are going to find it difficult to purchase anything!

    • That’s what I thought too.

    • I agree!

  • Geez so we can blame it all on the British Queen with a German husband? I hope they weren’t sponsored in that portrait, or that #notsponsored was scribbled in paint at the bottom (but preferably at the top). These trendsetters need to be stopped, such a commercial grab.

  • OMG I WANT A VEGEMITE TREE

    • Sorry, might be sleep deprived. Better make it a Christian Vegemite Tree.

    • Bahahahahaha!

  • These conspiracy theorists do my head on. They live and thrive on the internet and so many people get swallowed up. What’s stealing Christmas is small mindedness and not supporting gay marriage for instance. Anyway thats for another day.

  • It will be interesting to see what the trees are labelled as next year.

    Ingrid
    http://www.fabulousandfunlife.blogspot.com.au

  • I consider myself neither atheist nor religious, yet Christmas is Christmas & a Christmas tree is for, well Christmas & a part of Christmas – which, for me, is sort of more pagan or …you know what? It doesn’t matter. I’ll be putting my Christmas tree up with all of its mis-matched decorations on the 1st Sunday in December – as I always do – and not before or after this date. And, what’s more, I might even be playing Christmas carols when I do it. Not because I’m Christian but because it’s a tradition we’ve created & loved. As for anything else? Bah humbug.

    • I am an atheist, but I like my tree and go to the local carols every year- because it’s a nice tradition 🙂

  • I’m always agog at the stuff people get upset about. I tend to say ‘happy holidays’ and stuff because I think it’s respectful when you don’t know what religion people are. And sometimes I do say Merry Christmas or similar and no one’s ever been insulted because I’ve made assumptions either way.

    I worry more about the fact I use ‘Xmas’ and wonder if I’ll insult Christians. But my mum is quite religious (church going, volunteers for A LOT of church stuff, goes to 2 different bible study groups, does readings in church and is a ‘meet and greeter’ at the door) and yet she would not care if I use ‘xmas’ etc… She realises there are more important things in life and she’s not the sort of person who assumes others have to think / believe the same things as her. #teamlovinlife

    • I think your mum (and you!) sounds very sensible!

  • My sister had a Christmas tree decorated with hearts at her wedding which I thought was lovely. Admittedly she did get married the day after Christmas … but I thought at the time we should pull that ol’ tree out and decorate it for all occasions!

  • Kathy Marris

    I grew up with Christmas trees, Christmas decorations and saying Merry Christmas, so there is no way I’m changing this just to make those who don’t believe in Christmas happy! If Big W want to delete Christmas from their labelling on Christmas trees then that is fine, but please don’t ask me to say “Happy Holidays” because I refuse to. Being politically correct has gone over the top in Australia and if I offend someone because of my belief in all things Christmas, well too bad. #TeamLovinLife

    • No one is taking Christmas away- not even Big W. Also, no one is asking you or anyone to not say Merry Christmas. Political correctness literally means using language with care not to hurt others. There’s nothing OTT about the concept and also no calls to force people to say happy holidays. All the memes that say otherwise originate from far-right groups who often have racist and discriminatory agendas. Reasonable people know that if you say Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas, you have good intentions, regardless.

  • Poor old BigW they cant take a trick. There they are almost out of the retail scene by what I read in the finance sections of the paper and they do this! I don’t want them to close though because if I ever want a book at a very reasonable price, Big W is my shop. Back to the trees. We are just two on our lonesome now but I will still put up a tree because “spirit of Christmas” and will have some lovely memories of many Christmases to look back on. I think it is ‘one of those things’ that some people like to get tied up in knots about. Sigh. It’s only 11 weeks to Christmas from next Monday.

  • writeofthemiddle

    Bahaha – the generic celebration tree has me in stitches! I have bigger issues to take up my mind space than worrying over the omission of the word Christmas on tree packaging TBH! LOL #TeamLovinLife

  • sydneyshopgirl

    Well said and I agree, it’s a bit of hypocritical outrage to be upset at the perceived removal of Christianity from Christmas merchandise when the majority of Australians aren’t in fact practicing Christians.

    SSG xxx

  • Bwahaha … Valentine’s Day trees!!?! Perhaps in red fibre optic? Ewww… #TeamLovinLife

  • KookyChic

    I want a Mothers Day Tree. Every single brancn adorned not with shiny baubles but with shiny presents. I’d even settle for chocolates.

  • “Jesus was born in a pine tree that was heavily bedazzled for the occasion.” ROFL!!!! #teamlovinlife

  • I hate Christmas trees! I love Christmas sort of in that I do love seeing everyone and I really love buying the right gift for the right person (I love giving far more than receiving) but I would happily do without the decorations you have to get them all out and then you have to pack them all away! We got new gutters a few years ago the guttering man pulled down our lights (that no longer worked) at the same time I think the lights had been up about 10yrs in total!

    • Haha, fair enough, they are a pain to pack up again!

  • All I can think of is that I’d rather celebrate Christmas Pine than Christopher Pyne.