Not exactly your typical household Christmas tree, I grant, but here’s a tree – for you – for Christmas.
Since long before the advent of Christianity, people – particularly those in Europe and other northern climes –celebrated the solstice and the turning of the year by adorning their homes with greenery. This act symbolized their connection with nature and their belief that warmth and new growth would soon return after the winter hiatus.
Despite early objections by the Christian faithful about links to paganism, this recognition of our relationship with the natural world persisted into Christmas folklore, rites and traditions, and continues still. The Christmas Tree. The holly and the ivy. Christmas wreaths and evergreen boughs. The inclusion of such natural elements alongside family traditions, religious iconography and the commercial santaclausology that make up today’s Christmas festivities speaks to the enduring importance of nature to our cultural lives – whether we realize it or not.
As our cultural practices evolve, and as the imperative of “buy, buy, buy” increasingly dominates the season, I fear that fewer and fewer of us are paying much attention to the foundational roots of our celebrations and traditions – and that applies most of all to our kids. But this is easily resolved. This Christmas, take a moment to stop and smell the evergreen. Touch it and remember why it’s in your home. Tell your kids your stories about your childhood Christmases (we all have stories). Better yet, go for a walk in the woods, and tell your stories there. What better time of the year is there to do this? What better gift is there for your children than their heritage?
(And if you support the work we are doing to recognize, protect and celebrate Canada’s natural and cultural heritage, please consider making a donation to the National Trust for Land and Culture. Thank you.)