A story by Tricia Szirom
Driving out the other morning I was listening to the Gardening Show where they were talking about buying Christmas trees, when the question came up of where this Christmas tradition comes from and neither of the presenter knew. “Probably something pagan in origin that was taken over.” Said one. “Interesting to know.” Was the reply.
According to many sources, the tradition of decorating an evergreen tree at Christmas started in Livonia and in Germany in the 16th century. However the link between an evergreen tree and the 25th December predates Christmas and even the birth of Jesus.
According to ancient Babylonian tradition, Semiramis (who eventually became known by the various names as the Goddess Astarte/Asherah/Ashtoreth/Isis/ Ishtar/Oestre) claimed that after the untimely death of her son/husband Nimrod a full grown evergreen tree sprang up overnight from a dead tree stump. Semiramis claimed that Nimrod would visit that evergreen tree and leave gifts each year on the anniversary of his birth, which just happened to be on December 25th.
The ancient Babylonians, came to worship these trees as the ‘Queen of Heaven’, and gifts were brought to the groves of trees that had been grown in her honor and placed beneath them as offerings. The Babylonians also used wreaths to represent the nativity of the sun, since they were objects that depicted the "womb" of the Earth mother.
The modern tradition of decorating the Christmas tree is a custom that evolved from the silver fir and pine groves associated with the Great Mother Goddess. The lights and ornaments hung on the tree as decoration were symbols of the Sun, Moon, and Stars as they appear in the Cosmic Tree of Life.
In the book of Jeremiah (as recorded in the Old Testament) the "heathen" would cut down trees, carve or decorate them in the form of a god or goddess, and overlay it with precious metals. Of course Jeremiah condemned this behaviour (As did the Protestants at later times).
In ancient Europe Pagans did not cut down evergreen trees, bring them into their homes and decorate them as that was counter to their worship of nature. However they did decorate their houses with clippings of evergreen shrubs and decorated living trees with bits of metal and replicas of the god, Bacchus.
Christian Adoption of December 25th
December 25th is referred to for the first time in 324 AD in documents as Christmas Day when it was recognized as an official Christian official holiday. Many of today's customs came into Christianity through Constantine who, in 325 AD, began the process of converting the official Pagan religion of the Roman Empire to Christianity.
The period of 20-25th December in the northern hemisphere has been one of great celebration from ancient times. Winter solstice, the turn of the year, with the return of the sun was a significant time right across Europe and the Middle East from pre-history. In every culture there were goddesses and gods honoured at this time. Many Pagan Gods have Yule as their birth date including Ra, Cronos, Lugh, Mirthra and Odin, for example. This celebration was usually about the Goddess and the birth of her son (associated with the return of the sun).
For example, in ancient Babylon, the feast of the Son of Isis (Goddess of Nature) was celebrated on December 25. 'Yule' is the Chaldee name for an 'infant' or 'little child'; and as the 25th of December was called by our Pagan Anglo-Saxon ancestors, 'Yule-day,' or the 'Child's-day,' and the night that preceded it, 'Mother-night'. There was also a celebration of the birth of the son of the ‘Queen of Heaven’.
In the northern parts of Europe the night before mid winter solstice is known as Helya’s night, in ancient times the children were blessed and committed to the protection of a goddess, ancestor, or the female deities known as the Disir In later years the ceremony became Christianised and the mother was equated with the Virgin Mary.