Did you know you can bless your Christmas tree?
I didn’t; and I can’t wait to take advantage of the knowledge this year.
Just a few notes on the tree itself…
One of the earliest stories relating to the Christmas tree is that of the eighth-century Catholic missionary, Saint Boniface. He cut down an oak tree sacred to the pagan god Thor. When an evergreen, fir tree grew in its place Boniface said it symbolised the everlasting nature of Jesus Christ.
In terms of the modern tree the the most likely theory is that they started with medieval plays depicting biblical stories and by the late Middle Ages they had become performances taking place in the open air. An early Nativity play I guess.
These plays celebrating the Nativity were linked to the story of creation as Christmas Eve was also considered the feast day of Adam and Eve. As a result the Garden of Eden was symbolised by a “paradise tree” hung with fruit.
These plays were banned in many places in the 16th century. I’m not sure why, but certainly many of these kinds of plays were banned in the England at the same time by Henry VIII – the defender of the faith, turned enemy of it. So I assume similar acts of iconoclasm where happening throughout Europe.
However people began to set up “paradise trees” in their homes instead. They were hung with round pastry wafers symbolising the Eucharist, which developed into the edible ornaments decorating German Christmas trees today.
German immigrants brought the custom of Christmas trees to Britain in the early 1800s. With the German Prince Albert bringing a lavish tree to Windsor Castle in 1841 its popularity spread when the royals were sketched in the Illustrated London News standing with their children around the tree.
According to custom, the Christmas tree is set up just before Christmas and may remain in place until the Solemnity of Epiphany though, as I discussed in my post 20 Ways to Keep Christ in Christmas we put ours up on Gaudette Sunday or the 20th December. However you may wish to be more traditional. In the home the Christmas tree may be blessed by the father, mother or other family member. If you share a beautiful family meal on Christmas Eve perhaps just before it? Or if you go to the vigil mass as you return home?
Then as you turn on the lights, you can see them symbolising Christ, the Light of the world. The lights of the tree are therefore illuminated after the prayer of blessing.
There are two blessings; one very simple and one more in-depth. I’ve put both here so that depending on your family cicrcusmatnces you can choose the most appropriate one.
Dear God, two thousand years ago, you brought your son, Jesus into this world to teach us the power of love and sacrifice. As we raise this tree, we remember his birth and the meaning of his life for us. Bless this tree as a symbol of our celebration of Jesus’ birth and our gratitude for his sacrifice. May the joy this tree brings and the gifts we place under it remind us of the many gifts you have given us. We ask your blessings upon our loved ones, this day and always. Amen.
From this site.
The Longer Blessing
The leader makes the sign of the cross, and all reply “Amen.”
Let us glorify Christ our light, who brings salvation and peace into our midst, now and forever.
In the following or similar words, the leader prepares those present for the blessing:
My brothers and sisters, amidst signs and wonders Christ Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea: his birth brings joy to our hearts and enlightenment to our minds. With this tree, decorated and adorned, may we welcome Christ among us; may its lights guide us to the perfect light.
Reader: The Word of the Lord.
R/. Thanks be to God.
Let us ask God to send his blessing upon us and upon this
sign of our faith in the Lord.
R/. Lord, give light to our hearts.
That this tree of lights may remind us of the tree of glory on
which Christ accomplished our salvation, let us pray to the
That the joy of Christmas may always be in our homes, let
us pray to the Lord. R/.
That the peace of Christ may dwell in our hearts and in the
world, let us pray to the Lord. R/.
The leader says the prayer with hands joined:
Lord our God,
we praise you for the light of creation:
the sun, the moon, and the stars of the night.
We praise you for the light of Israel:
the Law, the prophets, and the wisdom of the Scriptures.
We praise you for Jesus Christ, your Son:
he is Emmanuel, God-with-us, the Prince of Peace,
who fills us with the wonder of your love.
let your blessing come upon us
as we illumine this tree.
May the light and cheer it gives
be a sign of the joy that fills our hearts.
May all who delight in this tree
come to the knowledge and joy of salvation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
The lights of the tree are then illuminated.
The leader concludes the rite by signing himself or herself with the sign of the cross and saying:
May the God of glory fill our hearts with peace and joy, now
The blessing concludes with a “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”.
From this site.
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