ABOUT THE CHRISTMAS TREE
Subject: Christmas tree
Date: Fri, 22 Jun 2001
David, sorry it has taken so long to write again! I was clearing my e-mail software and found I hadn't written.
About the christmas tree and St Bonaface.
St Bonaface (680 - 755 A.D.) was born in Crediton in Devon, England. Bonaface bacame the Bishop of Crediton in later life (even though there is no longer a cathedral there, the town still has a bishop). The church in Crediton (which still retains some of the original walls) was the cathedral for the area until the 9th century. when the See (bishops seat) was moved to Exeter. The church is now called 'The Collegiate Church of the Holy Cross and the Mother of Him who Hung Thereon' but for obvious reasons is always refered to simply as Holy Cross.
In his late twenties, Bonaface went to Germany as a missionary. While working with villagers in the Black Forest he was horrified to discover that, at the Winter Solstice, they were worshipping an ancient oak tree in the nearby forest. In order to demonstrate that God alone is to be worshipped, and that he maintains all life being its creator, Bonaface took an axe and cut the oak tree down.
The tale diverges here, some accounts say Bonaface planted a fir in the place of the oak, and other accounts say the tree took root in the stup of its own accord. Whichefer is true, the tree was used symbolically at Christmas the following year when the villagers saw the fir, and by then had all converted to Christianity - the evergreen represented the everlasting love of God, and the tree, with its pointed top represented the prayers of Christ/the failthfull going to God in heaven.
The custom of decorating the tree is related to there being a particular bird which always nested in it (giving us the traditional robin) the frozen dew on cobwebs in the tree (giving us garlands) and the twinkling of stars seen in the sky as the celebration took place in the middle of the night (giving us, originally candles, now electric christmas festoon lights). As the custom of celebrating Jesus birth in this way spread to other villages, and then all over Germany, so they continued to add more decoration to the tree. Eventually, people planted fir trees beside their houses so that they could avoid the dangerous treck into the forest (at that time there were wild bears and wolves roaming freely in Europe's forests - bears and wolves feature amoung the early animal decorations of the tree).
When Prince Albert of Germany married Princess Victoria of England, he had to come to live in England as she was the most 'senior' royal of the two. Prince Albert despirately missed his home country, and had a fir tree specially brought to Windsor Castle on his first Christmas there. The English weather was rather wetter than in Germany (which tends to have much more snow in the winter) preventing the celebration taking place outside, so the ingenious Albert had the tree brought indoors.
The town of Crediton, since Bonifaces time to this day, celebrates Christmas by fastening a small fir sloping out from the front of all the houses & shops along its half-mile long main street (High Street), like a guard of honour at a wedding. In respect of Bonaface, they decorate them simply with only the minimum lights.
The rest is so well known there is no point in repeating it. I suspect that St Bonaface would be just as shocked now at the use of Christmas Trees as he was at worship of the ancient oak! Someone once told me "If Bonaface were alive today he'd turn over in his grave!".
THE ROMANS PUT THEIR BALLS ON THE TREE
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 18:50:25 -0500
From: Joe Admire
Just read Guy Haurden's message of March 16th with his speculation on what the Romans used to decorate their holiday trees. Since horselaughing would be rude, I'll limit my reaction to "most highly unlikely". The Romans (the male Romans, anyway) put great symbolic significance on their testicles, to the extent that when giving sworn statements in court or elsewhere, they would place their hands on their crotches above their testicles while swearing to the truthfulness of what they were saying (which is, as you see, where we got the word "testimony"). Now, how likely is it that a people who held their manhood in such value that they would pledge truthfulness by it would casually mutilate themselves for the sake of holiday decorations?
THE ROMANS PUT THEIR BALLS ON THE TREE
Subject: The Xmas Tree
Date: Fri, 16 Mar 2001
From: "Guy Hauldren"
Just thought you may wish to know this about the myth of the Christmas tree: The romans apparently celebrated a rite/festival of fertility, that involved a large fir tree as the central focus. During the excesses and orgies that followed, some zealots became so frenzied that they emasculated themselves, and hung the resulting 'baubles' on the tree... hence Christmas balls. Just thought you might like to know.
Response: Let's see I am trying to picture this in my mind. Hmmm. Guys would cut their penis off and hang it on the tree? Hmmm. I am sure this was not a very popular custom. Somehow, this falls incredibly short (pun intended) of the Christmas tree thing in our culture. Did you have a point? Other than the obvious foolishness of a very select and very few dumb Roman men. I mean, wow, their wives must have been very upset. Thanks for the humorous nonsense. -David
Subject: Christmas Tree-
Date: Wed, 08 Aug 2001
From: C T Blake FirstConsul@Earthdome.com
Hey guys. While both you and one of the respondants are making fun of the Roman holiday utilizing the pine tree and self-castration, it was, in fact, a quite notorious festival of the time. the holiday the writer was speaking of (I forgot to copy down his name) is the festival of Cybele and Attis, one of the many cults that were imported from the east into the western Roman Empire. Attis (who figures into the tree and castration) is also seen with connections to the Baccanalia. The long and short of the story (there's a pun there)- Attis is born of a princess, who becomes pregnant from picking up a pomagranate (an almond in other versions) formed from the blood of Acdestis (a hermaphrodite, castrated by Dionysus. I know. Just hang on, and it'll start making sense.)
The princes gives birth to Attis, who is left exposed to the winderness.
Acdestis's mom is Cybele, who takes care of baby Attis.
Upon growing up, Attis is attracted to the now-female Acdestis. King Midas (of gold fame) convinces Attis to marry his daughter instead.
For reasons not entirely clear, Cyele opposed the marriage, possibly due to some lost bit of the legend having to do with Attis being murdered if he got married.
Cybele breaks into the city, and Acdestis inflicts madness on the wedding party.
Attis flees the city and castrates himself at the base of a pine tree, flinging the part into the branches. He dies from this wound, and his blood created violets. The almond tree also grew from his grave.
The cult of the Cybele Earth Mother was brought into Rome during the Punic Wars. In that time, a priesthood of eunuchs around the cult of Attis, where one of the rites of entry was self castration, usually with glass or a sharpened stone.
Interestingly, it was against Roman law for a Roman citizen to castrate himself, so the claim of all those pissed off Roman wives is something of a misnomer. Romans could not become priests of the cult (most came from the subject peoples of Anatolia and Syria).
During the Festival of Cybele (April 4-10th), the priests of Attis would dress in feminine costume (wigs, jewelry, the whole bit-- imagine a drag queen parade and you're pretty close) which was the only time they could collect funds to support the Temple (they went door to door). Later, the date of March 24th would be added as the Day of Blood (this, associated with Cybele and Attis)
On March 22nd, a pine tree would be cut down, and would have the base bathed in blood. It would be carried through Rome and put in from of the Temple and DECORATED (flowers for the most part, but also colorful strips of cloth and small toys). On the 24th would be the day of the new priests removing their manhood, hence the Day of Blood.
It is thought that the process of blood baptism, as practiced by both the Cult of Attis & Cybele as well as Mithras might have been a way to forgo the castration process, and still be considered an initiate of Attis (Remember, the Roman ban.)
So you see, guys, just because it seems a bit far fetched or perhaps incomprehensible to you, this was a seriously taken faith, with its own rituals and symbols that ....with strong evidence, I think.... portions of the festival we co-opted by the later Christian Church. The story of Boniface is pure fiction, but a poor attempt to graft a christian spin on an appropriated ritual, much the same way we are now getting the "dyed Easter eggs are the blood of Christ dripping on a basket of eggs" -story. What rubbish.
and while we're on the subject-- how come nobody is mentioning the Germannic cults of the tree, winter decoration and what not- what happen to the Yule? Doesn't it make more sense that the native Yule story was absorbed into Christmas, than some wierd transport of the Boniface story to Germany?
Open up guys.
PS- I wrote a couple of other e-mail, but may have missed putting the e-mail at the bottom. Consider this permission to copy and print those e-mails, with the above e-mail as mine.