Sunday, December 16, 2007

Masonic Symbolism and Christmas, The Tree

Up here in the Northeastern corner of the United States, while digging through ice and snow from a recent Nor-Easter, I came upon a branch of Douglas fir that I had trimmed off the bottom of our Christmas Tree and thrown out in my front yard for future disposal. Its dark blue-green needles poked out of the icy white snow with a promise of life amidst the coldest winter fury that mother nature could muster. It reminded me of the sprig of Acacia, symbol of the immortality of the soul.
I sometimes think up here in the Northern parts of the Northern Hemisphere ,when in the grips of a cold and snowy winter, the evergreens symbolic meaning rings truer than in warmer climes because of its stark contrast with the rest of the environment, but like in the picture above of the famous Tree of Ténéré, an evergreens tenacity for life is evident even in the hottest environment.
That is why the Acacia is an important symbol in Freemasonry and the evergreen tree has become one of the symbols of the Christian celebration of Christmas. But how did the evergreen tree end up in a Christian festival of Christs birth?

There are many myths and stories from all over the globe claiming paternity to the Christmas tree. But we must first discuss the day which Christmas is celebrated around, the Winter Solstice.

The celebration of the Winter Solstice is one of mankind's oldest traditions. It marks the shortest day of the year. After days and months of growing darkness, light begins its gradual return to our planet with a promise of new life and longer days. Mankind has revered this day in one form or another and throughout all of history gathered together to rejoice. The early Christian Church was very good at integrating festivals from all sources, and although the actual date of Christs birth varies according to scholars, December 25 was chosen by Pope Julius in the 4th century bringing the day of Christs birth in harmony with the most cherished celebration in the ancient world.
Now to the Tree.
There are many stories from all over the world about the first Christmas tree.There is an old Scandinavian myth of a fir tree, which sprang from blood drenched soil where two lovers met a violent death, that lit with mysterious lights (like candles) on a certain night during the Christmas season. Another myth is about a chivalrous knight traveling deep in the woods coming upon a gigantic pine tree whose branches were covered with candles. Some were standing straight and some bent in weird crooked shapes and at the top of this tree was a vision of a child with a halo around its head. This represented the tree of life decorated with the deeds of mankind watched over by the Savior.
One of my favorites is of Martin Luther, who, while traveling one Christmas Eve in snow covered country, looked up through the trees and was struck with the beauty of the stars peeking through the dark green boughs above him. He returned home to his family and wanted to share his feelings of the beauty and peace of the scene he just experienced. So he went out side and cut a small fir tree from his garden and placed candles on its branches and lit them for his family to experience.
During Christmas we adopt one or all of these myths and bring an evergreen and decorate it with lights to be shared by all.
I have always loved to go out for a walk at night during snow storms. There is a ethereal quiet and otherworldly glow at night during a snow storm that soothes my soul. During the last snow storm I had to run out on an errand and after I stepped out into the cold and looked out on the beauty surrounding me, called my wife to get the two of them in their snow gear so I could share with them my vision of peace and light.
Christmas is a time to surround yourself with the people you love and share in the light of promise of the new year ahead. My study of esoteric Freemasonry has reignited the spark of deeper thought and philosophy that was smoldering inside of me and I want to share my light with my family and my Brethren.
No matter what celebration of Winter Solstice you practice, may yours be filled with light and love.
P.S. You may or may not have noticed but I have decided to shed a little further light into my identity by using my initials to identify the man who writes from The North Eastern Corner. Anonymity, while still a security blanket, grows tiresome when shedding truth and light in a dark world.


Royce Myers said...

Christmas trees are much, much older than Christ.

Jeremiah 10:2-4: "Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not." (KJV).

They have always had a divine magic to them.

Tall_driver said...

Very nicely written. If you've no objection, I will use it as a point of discussion for our Lodge Education this month.

anonymous said...

It sounds like this was taken out of context. This christmas tree is a pagan act it has nothing to do with Jesus who is the Savior of the World.