by Dawson Church
Christmas trees are everywhere. I see people carrying them on roof racks on top of their cars. I see excited families heading for Christmas tree farms to engage in the ritual of cutting their own tree. Christmas tree stands have sprung up in many vacant lots. It’s one of the most visible signals of the Christian holiday of Christmas.
But did you know that the the origins of the Christmas tree long predate Christianity? The time of year when we celebrate Christmas has little to do with a date of Jesus’s birth. It’s between the Winter Solstice–the shortest day of the year–and the New Year. The founders of the early church picked this particular time of the year to celebrate Christmas because it was already holy to ancient civilizations. They realized it would be easier to graft their new shoot of a holiday onto the root of an ancient vine than grow a whole new tree.
Every year at this time, I can feel the sense of “peace on earth and goodwill toward everyone” that fills the planetary psychosphere. We hear Christmas carols being sung and see sparkly lights and decorations all over town.
Yet even that sense that this is a special time of year long predates Christianity. Early mystics believed that the period between the Winter Solstice and the New Year was a time when the veil between between this world and the next world thinned–when we can travel in consciousness from the world of material reality to the universal field underlying all reality.
The Winter Solstice was celebrated at sites like Stonehenge more than 4,000 years ago. The Christmas tree is the modern incarnation of the Solstice Evergreen. To the ancients, surrounded by deciduous forests that lost their trees in the winter, the Evergreen was a potent symbol of eternal life. It didn’t succumb to the desolation that afflicted the rest of the plant kingdom when the frosts came.
This time of year always makes me thoughtful. I reflect on the meaning of life in general and the meaning of my life in particular. I take time away from my chronic busy-ness and my habit of running on autopilot, and reflect on the meaning, purpose, and vision for my life.
Death and rebirth are appropriate themes for reflection and journaling at this time of year. You can ask these questions:
- Which parts of your life are dead and are ready for release, like the leaves falling from the deciduous trees?
- What unexplored potential is inside you, like dormant seeds ready to germinate given the right circumstances?
- Which parts of your life are eternal, like the solstice Evergreen?
- Which parts of your life are springing up afresh, like new shoots pushing through the crusty soil?
Look first at the parts of your life that have become stale and dry. Maybe you’re holding onto them the way dead leaves often cling to the cold winter branches. Take a fearless inventory of the parts of your life that no longer serve you and the dreams and visions that have outlived their usefulness. Yesterday’s diamonds might be today’s coal.
Make the most of this special time of year when the borders between this world and the next become transparent, allowing us glimpses of the other side. Inviting in the wisdom of the universe synchronizes us with the workings of those great cosmic cycles.
It is my prayer for you this holiday season that you will experience rich springs of renewal, recreating and rejuvenating your life in the coming year. That you align your consciousness with all the potential of which you’re capable, even as you release the past. May you experience a sweeter and deeper connection with life in the year ahead than you ever have before.
With much love,