The Christmas Tree

This is my last comment on Christmas trees this year. Having just drug the 31st tree of my married life into the house and placed it in its stand (involving a drill and not a little work) I believe that whatever the origin of the Christmas tree, it was a curse placed on us by earlier pagans. I will continue to put up trees, but will remember the years of difficulty – the year the tree fell over at least three times, frequently aided by the cat (a questionable creature). Tonight, my son and I have managed to place it in its spot, to be joined later by the ladies of the house who will supervise its decoration. God gave us the Christmas tree in order to create humility at this time of year.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.





7 responses to “The Christmas Tree”

  1. Tia Avatar

    Well and ya know? I’ve been bothering my formerly-puritan husband about not letting us have a tree….but the cat always knocked ours down and our two year old is the kind that would have climbed it, knocked it, eaten it, shaved it, and otherwise mutilated it. The ornaments would have all had to be hung from the halfway point up. We’d probably have to anchor it to the wall and then we’d wonder if he would try to eat a light and think maybe we should put the lights only from the halfway point up too. And, our years lately have been such that there is not much to pile under a tree anyway and it suits us just fine to put gifts on the table. So sometimes I wonder if a little puritanism isn’t a good thing. 😉

  2. Steve Avatar

    I remember my first Christmas after I got married. I was from a “fake tree” family. She was from a “real tree” family. So here I am, short and skinny, trying to wrestle with this seven foot tall tree into our first apartment together.

    I had to bring it through the back, and while I’m trying to get it in its stand I’m scraping half of the ceiling off because the top of the tree is 7ft and our ceiling is 8ft and the tree-holder-thing is several inches combined with my not-so-suave tree-wrestling moves.

    It seemed like one of many bad omens that first Christmas for my marriage. I’d still trade a million bad omens like that to still be married. 🙂

    Anyways, the torture of the Christmas tree is probably penance or something for stealing yet another thing from the pagans. Just because it’s sanctified doesn’t mean it’s easy. 😉

  3. fatherstephen Avatar

    In truth, our tree is an amazing collection of memories. That two of my children were away (married) while we decorated this year made it sort of bittersweet. That a soon-to-be-daughter-in-law helped decorate was truly sweet as we initiated her into the the stories and significance of many of the ornaments. And at least one of the ornaments this year was new (a delightful gold ornament of St. Nicholas Cathedral (OCA) in Washington, DC, bought this year when we visited and fondly remembered tonight.

    There is a gold star, actually a snowflake, that a brave friend gave us the year we lost a child (in pregnancy). His name, Michael Seraphim, is engraved on it (May his memory be eternal). She gave it to me with the careful tenderness of someone who hopes they’ve done a kind thing, and with the trepidation with which we all approach the grieving. The years have passed, but bringing the ornament back out is one of my favorite moments at the tree.

    The tree farm where we have cut our trees for 16 years now, is contemplating going out of business. I pray they stay open for a few more years. The annual trek to Wartburg and cutting the tree ourselves has become an important part of this entire family ritual.

  4. Tia Avatar

    Oy! You were so close! Is it the tree farm on Montgomery? We’ve been passing one that was part of the catalyst for those “bothering” comments I’ve made to my dh this year….for the last few years we’ve hung our ornaments from window garlands. Good and childproof. 😉 I have though, made sure dh has read every post you’ve written that even mentions a tree so maybe next year, when my toddler hopefully has tamed and when my dh is less puritan-more Orthodox, he will delight in the idea enough to get us to the tree lot. He always “buys big” when we pick one so I can blame any “wrestling” and “needle inhalation” upon that and not on the origins of the tradition LOL….

  5. D Burns Avatar
    D Burns

    Personally, I’m fond of the “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree we’ve used for the first 5 years of our marriage. Easy to put up and it doesn’t take up a lot of space around the fireplace. This year, however, my wife decided we needed a grown up tree because she couldn’t get all the ornimates on our old one. So we had to rearrange the living room to put up a new 6ft tall tree. At least I got to put out my train set around it.

    btw… She still couldn’t get all the ornimates on the new tree.

    PS… If you recall the picture of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria that made the Christmas tree so popular in England and America the tree was small enough to fit on top of a table. I think it’s our americanness that want a big tree.

  6. fatherstephen Avatar


    Indeed it is close – it was the “Newstead” tree farm in Wartburg. They have a couple of barns. After you cut the tree there is hot chocolate or cider. Having gone there now 16 years, (Clare was not born for the first one), they have watched our family grow and it’s become a good family tradition. We have traditional ways of “picking” the tree – it involves much fun and argument (in good jest). I’m praying they stay open for a few more years. James had assumed that he’d take his own children (should they have any) there as well. Alas, the world does change.

    But, this late report in. Our tree is up and looks as good as ever, but it beckons to the family to come home. One daughter and her husband won’t be there this year – but I can’t have them every year, especially now with my sons-in-law ordained. Christmas is a working day!

  7. Lillian Avatar

    I came from an “artificial tree” family and my husband from a “real tree” one. Although I love the real trees (the aroma, etc.), they are a whole lot of trouble compared to the artificial ones (needles falling, having to water it, etc.). We’re getting new carpet in January, so maybe I can talk my husband into getting an artificial one. He says if we survive putting up our Christmas tree, we’ll stay married another year–HAHAHA!!! Must be working–we’ve been married for 23 years now!

    Fr. Stephen, I will be seeing Daughter #2 while her FIL is in Alaska. Since I will be gone part of the time she and Fr. P are here, I won’t see as much of them as I’d like.

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