‘He who loves not women, wine and song remains a fool his whole life long’.
Martin Luther – Professor of theology, author, composer, Augustinian monk.
Trees of Paradise
Historians believe our Christmas trees might be a close relative of the Medieval Trees of Paradise that appeared in Western Europe around late December in mystery/miracle plays.
The Paradise Tree was a theatrical prop symbolizing the two trees in the Garden of Eden: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life. Red apples were hung on the branches of evergreen trees and a circle of candles lit the trees for the telling of Adam & Eve’s tale.
Christmas tree traditions also go way back to pagan Irish celebrations. Decorations were handmade, usually of the sun, moon and stars. They were hung on the tree along with decorative symbols representing souls who’d left the earth.
It’s believed that Martin Luther – the sixteenth century German monk – came up with the idea of adding candlelight to a tree.
Luther is better known for nailing 95 theses to a Wittenberg church door. His beliefs helped initiate the Reformation. He acted because he was appalled by the excesses and corruption of the Roman Catholic Church. Luther married a former nun and fathered six children.
Legend has it that one cold winters eve, as Luther tramped through the snow, he was wonder struck by the stars brilliantly lighting up the evergreen trees. He promptly chopped down a pine tree and decorated it with burning candles so his children could experience what he’d seen.
Image: Eve giving Adam the forbidden fruit, by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1533.