A word in support of the Christmas tree

Father and Son with Christmas Tree19th Century by Franz Kruger

Father and Son with Christmas Tree
19th Century by Franz Kruger

Christmas tree at Presto grocery store, Shah Alam, Malaysia

Christmas tree at Presto grocery store, Shah Alam, Malaysia

A Malaysian friend of ours said she heard that in Canada you’re not allowed to call it a Christmas tree, and was wondering if she had heard right.  I told her  that most Canadians do call it a Christmas tree because that’s what it is, but the government of Canada is trying to be politically correct and not hurt anyone’s feelings, so any government correspondence and retail advertising will call it a festive tree or a holiday tree.  She replied, “That’s so weird!”

Yes it is.  It’s very weird.  Christians celebrate the season and put up a Christmas tree because that’s what it is.  It is a symbol of the religious season celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25th.  People of other faiths usually know what a Christmas tree

Family portrait in front of the Christmas tree, 2011 December 25

Family portrait in front of the Christmas tree, 2011 December 25

is and are not offended if we Christians refer to it as such.

We are now living in Malaysia, which is a Muslim country.  The country is made up of Malay people (people who are of the Islam faith), Indians (of Hindu, Sikh, & Christian faiths), and Chinese (Buddhist, Christian & many eastern faiths).  The citizens of peninsular Malaysia, which is roughly the size of  two New Brunswicks, live in harmony and respect everyone’s faith and culture.  They call a Christmas tree a Christmas tree.  The biggest Muslim holiday is Hari Raya that occurs around the end of August.  The Indian celebratation of Deepavali (Festival of Lights) is their biggest festival season.  For the Chinese, it’s the Chinese New Year around the end of January or first of February.  The holy days for each faith is a holiday for all in Malaysia.

Anytime after Deepavali in late November, the Christmas decorations come out at malls and stores all over the Kuala Lumpur area.  The mall we visited yesterday was decorated with many 2012 Dec 02 - Mid-Valley Mega Mall04towering Christmas trees and lights strung from the ceilings and railings.  There are displays of Santa Claus and other commercial 2011 Oct 26 - Deepavali3aspects of the season.  People of all faiths line up to have a picture taken in front of the displays.  They refer to it as the Christmas tree and no one is offended.

With friends celebrating Deepavali

With friends celebrating Deepavali

2012 Dec 06 - Pavillion02 2012 Dec 02 - Mid-Valley Mega Mall08

Shop in Jonker Way, Malacca

Shop in Jonker Way, Malacca

2012 Dec 06 - Pavillion21Nov 21 - Collins Centre3 Nov 20 - Docklands07  2012 Dec 06 - Pavillion012011 Nov. 30 - Pavillion Mall2 2011 Nov. 20 - Christmas decorations at Sunway19 2011 Nov. 20 - Christmas decorations at Sunway17  2012 Dec 06 - Pavillion22 2012 Dec 06 - Pavillion17

Regal touch to Xmas at Pavillion

  • From The Pembroke Daily Observer, 2012 December 07

       VALLEY PULPIT

Rev Terry Burns
I want you to use a little sanctified imagination with me as you read today! That fateful and historical day was December 25, 2016. The streets of Petawawa, Pembroke and all the surrounding communities were filled with troops and armoured military vehicles that had been dispatched from CFB Petawawa. The people of these towns were frantic and running in all directions as mothers comforted children crying hysterically. The military had been given the unthinkable and unpopular task of enforcing the “Banning of Christmas Day!”

The pride of our nation, our very own soldiers, moved from house to house, smashing in doors and seizing illegal contraband like turkeys, canned cranberries, coloured wrapping paper, Christmas videos and yes, Christmas trees as well. On this day, tanks were ordered to destroy every nativity scene and to obliterate any sign of Christmas in the public square. Does all this seem a little far-fetched? It is not really far fetched at all, because once upon a time Christmas was actually banned in England!

The real story is set in 17th century England, as tensions were running high between the British monarchy under the rule of Charles I and the Puritans, a movement of discontented Christians frustrated with the political orientation of the Church of England. The Puritans, influenced greatly by Calvin, sought to reform England, ridding it of its decadence. Oliver Cromwell, the English General and leader of the Puritans, thought Charles I to be a Catholic insurgent.

For those of you who remember your British history, Charles I was defeated in the civil war of 1642, deposed and beheaded!

In 1644, parliament enacted a ban on Christmas which they thought to be one of the key culprits of eroding the core beliefs of Christianity. I wonder what could have been so horrible about Christmas that had the Puritans all in a flap? I am glad you asked! Perhaps you have heard of the English tradition, the Twelve Days of Christmas. The Twelve Days of Christmas began each year on Christmas Day, December 25, and continued on for the next 11 days culminating in a final feast. Non-stop dancing, drinking, singing and the giving of gifts characterized the Twelve Days of Christmas. Now we all know that there is something called, “too much of a good thing!” The Twelve Days usually deteriorated into excessive drunkenness, debauchery and promiscuity.

In 1644, select Protestant Ministers codified the organization of the church and its worship in a document entitled, “The Directory of Worship.” It stressed the preeminence of the Lord’s Day and eliminated all other high holidays including Christmas, Easter, Whitsun and Saints Day.

Now getting back to what might have appeared a “far fetched introduction,” in 1650 the military was literally mandated to enforce the ban of Christmas and went from house to house confiscating anything that may have looked like it was going to be used for a good Christmas time.

Not to be outdone, the pro-Christmas movement stood in opposition to the ban and people secretly attended Mass on December 25. This opposition literally turned into rioting in 1647. And not to worry, the Puritans were driven from power in 1660; Charles II was reinstated as England’s monarch and he then restored Christmas.

There is little chance of anyone banning Christmas on you but they sure can try and ruin it for you. Here are some hints that will help you get through this year.

• Don’t finance Christmas; it is only going to add to your stress!

• Make up your mind to forgive each and every person that you have been harbouring a grudge against. You are probably not going to avoid them even if you want. Friends, you don’t get to pick and choose what and whom you forgive. Each and every funeral I perform, we always pray the Lord’s Prayer at the graveside. We pray, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” And yet intelligent Christians and nonChristians alike seem to come up with their own reasons for having some special right to hold on to unforgiveness. You never know who might not be at the Christmas table with you next year. After giving those silly, secular, politically correct do-gooders a bit of a hard time for their “Happy Holidays,” forgive them and forget them too!

Secular vs. religious nature (from Wikipedia)

The Christmas tree’s origins are uncertain, but it is associated with the celebration of the Christmas holidays, so there has been some amount of debate as to whether it should be considered a secular or a religious custom.

The Christmas Tree1870 by Ehninger

The Christmas Tree
1870 by Ehninger

▪  It has been rejected as a “pagan” tradition that should not be associated with the Christian religious celebration of Christmas.

▪  It has been rejected as a “Christian” tradition that should not be allowed to be endorsed in secular contexts in countries that have a separation of church and state.

▪  As a custom arising in Protestant parts of Germany, it has been rejected as a “Protestant” custom in Catholic countries, detracting from the Mediterranean traditions of the Christmas crib.

Pope John Paul II introduced the Christmas tree custom to the Vatican in 1982. Although at first disapproved of by some as out of place at the centre of the Roman Catholic Church, the Christmas tree has become an integral part of the Vatican Christmas celebrations, and in 2005 Pope Benedict XVI spoke of it as part of the normal Christmas decorations in Catholic homes. In 2004, Pope John Paul called the Christmas tree a symbol of Christ. This very ancient custom, he said, exalts the value of life, as in winter what is evergreen becomes a sign of undying life, and it reminds Christians of the “tree of life” of Genesis 2:9, an image of Christ, the supreme gift of God to humanity. In the previous year he said: “Beside the crib, the Christmas tree, with its twinkling lights, reminds us that with the birth of Jesus the tree of life has blossomed anew in the desert of humanity. The crib and the tree: precious symbols, which hand down in time the true meaning of Christmas.” The Catholic Church’s official Book of Blessings has a service for the blessing of the Christmas tree in a home.

In 2006, the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport removed all of its Christmas trees in the middle of the night rather than allow a  rabbi to put up a  menorah near the largest tree display. Officials feared that one display would open the door for other religious displays, and, in 2007, they opted to display a grove of birches in polyethylene terephthalate  snow rather than religious symbols or Christmas trees. In 2005, the city of Boston renamed the spruce tree used to decorate the Boston Common a “Holiday Tree” rather than a “Christmas Tree”. The name change drew a poor response from the public and it was reversed after the city was threatened with several lawsuits.

488px-Lodovico_and_Maria_Angelica_Calderara_12800u_original Godey'streeDec1850 418px-Bundesarchiv_Bild_102-12787,_Prag,_Weihnachtsfeier_für_Erwerbslose

Happy ChristmasPainted by Viggo Johansen 1851-1935

Happy Christmas
Painted by Viggo Johansen 1851-1935

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