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Author Topic: Christmas Trees in Historically Orthodox Lands  (Read 3850 times) Average Rating: 0
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Tikhon29605
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« on: December 11, 2004, 06:06:46 PM »

I am curious about the subject of Christmas trees amongst the Orthodox in the Old Country. I know that the Christmas tree originated in Germany. My question is, has it been embraced by Orthodox in the Old Country? I've never been to Greece or Eastern Europe, so I have no first hand experience of this. In town here in the USA, the Greek Orthodox church puts up a huge Christmas tree in the church itself. The OCA parish puts up a little greenery and flowers, but no tree.  I have seen pictures of Christmas trees in Russia, some in Orthodox churches. I just wonder how widespread this is. What about the Asian part of Russia? Siberia, the area near Alaska and China? Have Christmas trees made it in there? Or are they only in European Russia, in areas where Germans settled? Ditto for Greece and the Levant.
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« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2004, 07:49:11 PM »

As far as I am aware it is a northwest European phenomena. Brought to England by Prince Albert, consort to Queen Victoria.

To deviate, I also remember - hopefully correctly - that mince pies so loved in England at Christmas originally had thirteen ingredients, one for each Apostle and Our Lord, and were shaped to represent a manger. This tradition was suppressed by the Oliver Cromwell, along with much else..................
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« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2004, 08:36:50 PM »

This tradition was suppressed by the Oliver Cromwell, along with much else..................

Got to love those Puritans, huh? LOL I've never seen people that had such unreserved hatred of the Incarnation as those damnable Puritans.
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« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2004, 10:13:51 PM »

Yes, Oliver Cromwell is much admired by some. But like many of my countrymen not so by me. A regicide to boot.

In Greece Christmas is a more religious holiday. Pascha is the feast of feasts and don't you know it.

However western xmas is spreading across the world, sadly.
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« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2004, 03:20:24 PM »

A Song written by those damnable Puriatans that supposedly hated the Incarnation:

Sweeter sounds than music knows
Charm me in Immanuel's name;
All her hopes my spirit owes
To his birth, and cross, and shame.

When he came, the angels sung,
"Glory be to God on high;"
Lord, unloose my stamm'ring tongue,
Who should louder sing than I?

Did the Lord a man become,
That he might the law fulfil,
Bleed and suffer in my room,
And canst thou, my tongue, be still?

No, I must my praises bring,
Though they worthless are and weak;
For should I refuse to sing,
Sure the very stones would speak.

O my Saviour, Shield, and Sun,
Shepherd, Brother, Husband, Friend,
Ev'ry precious name in one,
I will love thee without end.

--John Newton
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Tikhon29605
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« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2004, 03:56:55 PM »

That doesn't count. John Newton was no Puritan. He was an Evangelical Anglican, nurtured in the Incarnational piety of Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer.  Many many Anglicans have written WONDERFUL hymns about the Incarnation (and the Trinity too, for that matter).  I thik the Anglicans really GET the Incarnation. C.S. Lewis certainly does.  I am still not convinced the Calvinist/Puritan tradition really gets the Incarnation.  They'll talk a lot about the birth of a "King", occassionally about the birth of a Saviour, but even today most Calvinists are horrified or at least startled when someone says "God is born and laid in a manger." I've had Calvinists tell me point blank: God CANNOT be born! Perhaps you could quote us some lovely Calvinist hymn of the Incarnation by Calvin, Knox or Beza?  I'd love to hear it.
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« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2004, 05:17:48 PM »

I am sorry I keep forgetting the whole there is no salvation outside the church idea promulgated by some. I hope by the way, you do not think me argumentative. :- But he that has God for his father must have the church for his mother? Or is that not true?  Wink

My point was that the Puritans did not reject the Incarnation because they were not Eastern Orthodox. No matter the label they wore they adhered to the essentials. Yes or no?

John Newton was not synergistic is his approach to soteriology as is the Eastern Church as you pointed out he was evangelical. But I believe he was among those who thought to purify the Church of England.

Anyway, Puritans like most Christian "wheel reinventors" were probably reactionary more than "revelatory" when it came to "Christ-mass."  I like my artificial tree-very nice. Got it on sale! Grin
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« Reply #7 on: December 15, 2004, 06:00:58 AM »

This thread has deviated somewhat and I feel some considerable responsibility. However, may I comment regarding this Puritan/Anglican contention.

Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, and his ilk did actively suppress some very long established traditions associated with Christmas. The agents of Henry Vlll destroyed many external symbols of church adornment. Of course, it may be said many things have been lost of a 1000 years in western Europe. I just noted the mince pie because it seemed a charming custom with an underlying didactic purpose, now lost because of the actions of a man responsible for a number of heinous acts.

By the by, yesterday's London Times contains a report on the making of such a mince pie according to a recipe from the 1650s. Sounds quite edible and not too different from today's offering. My regret is the loss of the teaching element. Mince pies simply becoming one among many foods to be consumed during a largely unedifying extended season of excess. (Oh, Lord Protector, I can hear your roar of agreement).

The relative merits of whether Anglicans or other protestants hold dear to this or that appears a difficult area, given that so much has changed even during the last 100 years.

 Grin And to deviate further still, dear reader, I know this one is Tony Blair but who are the others?Huh??
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« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2004, 11:52:14 PM »

The Orthodox life is the way of Christ our Lord and redeemer.

Our Lord has provided us with all that we need to follow and obey him, indeed we worship him for the reasons of his great and merciful gifts.

The so-called chrismas tree is an unfortunate pre-occupation provided by a western culture that is too far from the spiritual power and beauty of the Christian faith.

People have the right to do what they please and I beleive that people should have that right. However; Christ has taken a select people to be his own...chosen, set aside from all others.

These people are filled with Christs love and are moved by the Holy Spirit in all things.

You will not find these people with trees, lights, candy canes, reindeers or elves or any of the myriad "holiday" halabaloo. These people are not in the malls either or getting drunk at "holiday parties". These people are at this time fasting and praying in anticipation of the advent of Christ.

The question is...Where are these people?

I am looking for them.

I want so much to be around people who could be a good example to me and those I love.

I thought that Orthodox Christians were the best example for me......I was wrong. So many of us Orthodox Christians are now fully in line with the current gobal folley which what is called "Christmas" today; members of my own family included.

I am shocked, I mean absolutely and genuinely shocked to see the attitude and behaviors of Orthodox Christians at this time of year. A website for an Indian Orthodox Church I was observing recently was boasting about "how we are in line with the western traditions of Christmas".

Sad.

It is now true when it is said.."you cannot tell an Orthodox Christian from a protestant or catholic during the Christmas season.

Sad.


P.S.
I resent these little funny faces with the furry red hats placed on the site I presume for the holiday season? Thats exactly my point.

God help us all...Amen


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« Reply #9 on: December 16, 2004, 12:27:39 AM »

My, my, Amdetsion, your first two statements are so correct. And then you lapse into unhealthy negativism. Why?
Surely you do not expect to find only saints, only the holy and righteous, in His Church, do you?  He came for the salvation of sinners - all of us.
I very often am judgemental, but am so at my own peril as it separates me from Him.
It is not a matter of "being around people who...", but our own Faith, Love, and actions.

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« Reply #10 on: December 16, 2004, 12:38:00 AM »

Dear Amdetsion,

I believe that you have created a false image of a non-existent religious utopia, and now you are unjustly comparing reality to that and everything is coming up short...in your mind. I know people--some very holy--who have Christmas trees and lights up. This should not even figure into your equation.

I know many people who are Orthodox and are preparing for Christ's coming at the Nativity. But even in Orthodox countries there are cultural traditions that add to the religious celebration. Christmas is a very joyous event, and the preparation leading up to it is wonderful. I resent your attempts to be hypercritical and overlyjudgmental. Not all of us are out on spending spree orgies. Not all of us are skipping out on fasting.

I would suggest you pick up a copy of the Sayings of the Desert Fathers (the topical collection versus the alphabetical collection) and go to the part about Non-judging. If You don't have access to that, I will be happy to scan in some selections for you.

Anastasios
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« Reply #11 on: December 16, 2004, 12:40:28 AM »

These people are filled with Christs love and are moved by the Holy Spirit in all things.

You will not find these people with trees, lights, candy canes, reindeers or elves or any of the myriad "holiday" halabaloo. These people are not in the malls either or getting drunk at "holiday parties". These people are at this time fasting and praying in anticipation of the advent of Christ.


Wow, that's awfully judgmental.  Goodness, here I thought that the Christians I've known all of my life (with the dreaded Christmas trees and lights, etc.) were filled with Christ's love but I guess this poster knows better.   Must be a spiritual gift. 
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« Reply #12 on: December 16, 2004, 02:44:51 AM »


P.S.
I resent these little funny faces with the furry red hats placed on the site I presume for the holiday season? Thats exactly my point.

God help us all...Amen


 Smiley Wink Cheesy Grin Angry Sad Shocked Cool Huh Roll Eyes Tongue Embarrassed Lips Sealed Kiss :'( Smiley Smiley Smiley Smiley Cheesy Cheesy Angry Angry Shocked Cool
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« Reply #13 on: December 16, 2004, 07:45:59 AM »

Dear Amdetsion,

i too read your post with some disquiet. May I suggest you go to the <saintedwardbrotherhood> website.

This small group of deeply ascetic monks of the Russian Church Abroad in England clearly articulate the unique character of Orthodoxy, adhere to the Church calendar and resist Ecumenism as opposed to being good neighbours to others. Their igumen speaks and writes about the 'incontinence', if I may put it that way, of way Christmas has become celebrated in the West. However just inside the main entrance door to their church this year as in others will be a large decorated tree, wrapped presents for the children and on the morning of the Nativity feastday after the service and parish meal Christmas carols will be sung according to the traditions and customs of those present, i.e. English, Greek, Russian, Armenian, Georgian and Bulgarian, etc., etc.

The problem with the contemporary celebration of Christmas is

1) It is increasing devoid of any religious meaning or focus, other than token window dressing

2) It is an occasion for revellry, drunkenness and gluttony

3) The festivities precede and anticipate the feast and then, in some cases, are a warm up to another non-Christian festival, New Year or Hogmanay.

4) The purpose and meaning both of the feast and it's significance that God became flesh for us is totally swamped in an unedifying, secular fest..................

Christmas trees and carols, of themselves, are neither good nor bad I suggest, but the context within which these elements find themselves used is. The Nativity of Christ is an occasion for Joy, and not some misplaced puritanism surely? Wink
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« Reply #14 on: December 16, 2004, 09:25:16 AM »

The so-called chrismas tree is an unfortunate pre-occupation provided by a western culture that is too far from the spiritual power and beauty of the Christian faith.

I resisted the urge to dive in on the "Advent" thread, but this is just too silly not to laugh at. Really-- you have to be deaf and blind not to see and hear that the glory of the Advent and Christmas season in the West vastly exceeds that of the East.

Look at it the other way: the West has created a vision of the glory of the incarnation so brilliant that even the secualr world is pulled into it. They then get it wrong of course, but what of it? That can be resisted.
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« Reply #15 on: December 16, 2004, 10:03:13 AM »


I resisted the urge to dive in on the "Advent" thread, but this is just too silly not to laugh at. Really-- you have to be deaf and blind not to see and hear that the glory of the Advent and Christmas season in the West vastly exceeds that of the East.


Assuming, of course, that one has actually spent a Christmas or two in an 'Historically Orthodox (or Roman Catholic, for that matter) Land', and can assert this from experience.
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« Reply #16 on: December 16, 2004, 10:21:03 AM »

http://www.worldandi.com/specialreport/2001/january/Sa21280.htm

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« Reply #17 on: December 16, 2004, 11:33:15 AM »

Jennifer: thou hast said it.

As I wrote elsewhere recently, the Russians have the tradition of the -æ-+-¦-¦ (yolka) at Christmas and New Year's. As mentioned here it probably was got from the Germans. In Soviet times it was the New Year's tree with a red star on top.

I wonder why it didn't appear in England until Prince Albert as German kings had reigned there since the early 1700s, and still do. (The same family in fact.)

Keble: true.

I love the Christmas smileys.
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« Reply #18 on: December 16, 2004, 01:52:26 PM »

I resisted the urge to dive in on the "Advent" thread, but this is just too silly not to laugh at. Really-- you have to be deaf and blind not to see and hear that the glory of the Advent and Christmas season in the West vastly exceeds that of the East.

If, by East, you mean the Greek liturgical tradition, then I'd tend to agree with you. 

I'd like to see the Indian Orthodox website Amdetsion referred to.  From the tone of his post, I don't think I trust him enough to give an objective appraisal of its contents.  Knowing my people, it's certainly possible, but I'd still like to see it for myself. 
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« Reply #19 on: December 16, 2004, 03:17:08 PM »

If, by East, you mean the Greek liturgical tradition, then I'd tend to agree with you.

Most definitely. I have spent part of the Christmas holidays in Greece twice and they just don't do much compared to the US.
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« Reply #20 on: December 16, 2004, 04:01:32 PM »

Easter is THE holiday in the Orthodox world. Theologically it may be in the West as well but popularly Christmas tops it.
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« Reply #21 on: December 16, 2004, 05:13:53 PM »



I resisted the urge to dive in on the "Advent" thread, but this is just too silly not to laugh at. Really-- you have to be deaf and blind not to see and hear that the glory of the Advent and Christmas season in the West vastly exceeds that of the East.

Look at it the other way: the West has created a vision of the glory of the incarnation so brilliant that even the secualr world is pulled into it. They then get it wrong of course, but what of it? That can be resisted.

I agree with keble on this and the bullet is shot
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« Reply #22 on: December 16, 2004, 08:52:45 PM »

In English speaking countries other than North America, the impression I have is that the intrinsic link between the festival of Christmas and the celebration of the Nativity of Christ is continually being eroded. Where the festival is 'exported' elsewhere, e.g. Japan, it is a secular festival.

The traditional western celebration can and does exhibit in some very beautiful ways. However the present reality it something very different. The East does celebrate that God became flesh. However, it is the Resurrection which is the feast of feasts. And forgive me, but the western approach to this is weak. This is true regardless of whether you measure the occasion by either religious or secular observance. However I was not aware this was some sort of beauty contest between one or other.

A British newspaper today shows a picture constructed by the radical British Channel 4 tv broadcast station. It is a horrendous parody of a famous painting of the Last Supper.

Once again we see in the west not only an attack but how innured western societies have become to such phenomena.

Some may draw comfort from an increasing world wide celebration of Christmas, but only someone who is deluded or an anti-Christian may draw any comfort from this. The Christ in Christmas is being diluted or even expunged, and children are growing up who do not even know the true meaning of the Nativity of Christ and how God came down and dwelt amongst us................

Yes, the thread is perhaps sad, but not for the reason put forward by last few posters. The only who may draw comfort from this is Satan. Silly points about west won and east lost or vice versa appear to dumb this down to the level of rivalries between football team supporters.
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« Reply #23 on: December 16, 2004, 10:57:52 PM »

The East does celebrate that God became flesh. However, it is the Resurrection which is the feast of feasts. And forgive me, but the western approach to this is weak. This is true regardless of whether you measure the occasion by either religious or secular observance. However I was not aware this was some sort of beauty contest between one or other.

At the risk of making the thread sink further into silly playground rivalries, I personally think the traditional Roman rite Easter Liturgy (the Vigil) is "stronger" than the Byzantine Paschal Matins and Divine Liturgy at midnight (not having had a chance yet to attend the Vesperal Liturgy on Holy Saturday, I can't compare the Latin Vigil to its proper Greek equivalent).  Perhaps the midnight services have to grow on me, but that wasn't required by the Latin services. 
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« Reply #24 on: December 16, 2004, 11:20:43 PM »

In English speaking countries other than North America, the impression I have is that the intrinsic link between the festival of Christmas and the celebration of the Nativity of Christ is continually being eroded. Where the festival is 'exported' elsewhere, e.g. Japan, it is a secular festival.

The traditional western celebration can and does exhibit in some very beautiful ways. However the present reality it something very different. The East does celebrate that God became flesh. However, it is the Resurrection which is the feast of feasts. And forgive me, but the western approach to this is weak. This is true regardless of whether you measure the occasion by either religious or secular observance. However I was not aware this was some sort of beauty contest between one or other.

A British newspaper today shows a picture constructed by the radical British Channel 4 tv broadcast station. It is a horrendous parody of a famous painting of the Last Supper.

Once again we see in the west not only an attack but how innured western societies have become to such phenomena.

Some may draw comfort from an increasing world wide celebration of Christmas, but only someone who is deluded or an anti-Christian may draw any comfort from this. The Christ in Christmas is being diluted or even expunged, and children are growing up who do not even know the true meaning of the Nativity of Christ and how God came down and dwelt amongst us................

Yes, the thread is perhaps sad, but not for the reason put forward by last few posters. The only who may draw comfort from this is Satan. Silly points about west won and east lost or vice versa appear to dumb this down to the level of rivalries between football team supporters.
Well the hyday is CHRIST MASS not someothermajig
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« Reply #25 on: December 17, 2004, 09:55:18 AM »

Dear CatholicEagle,

Today I sat with a Catholic young woman discussing Christmas. Her words to me were, "Most children do not appear to know who or what Jesus Christ was or is, let alone what is the meaning of Christmas". She also remarked a little later, "They and their parents seen to think of it as lots of presents, food and Dad getting blotto!"

My good friend over the water in England e-mailed to say he had been listening to a local radio's Christmas show and the host had invited the Anglican Bishop of Birmingham, John Sentamu, to come up and address a few words. My friend was very hurt and disappointed by the good bishop's contribution. He apparently spoke of children getting presents and how exciting that was, and about a child being born. And that was it!

The reality of the Virgin Birth, Crucifixion and Resurrection is largely unknown to too many. The church leaders know it, teachers know it (Two of my children are teachers, including one a religious education teacher teaching 16-18 year olds), and so do very many informed laypeople.

Anyone may bandy a word around without realising it's proper meaning and significance. Sadly this is especially true of Christmas. I have carefully listened to many of the beautiful traditional carols. Again and again I found a number that affirm traditional Christian teaching. But how many know of these things or give then any thought. And if a bishop given a huge audience, both live and broadcast, and doesn't seize the moment then who does?

You keep harping on about the word, you break it into it's two compenent words. I know and you know their significance but the great mass of those who celebrate Excessmass, do they know? The evidence suggests the feast is increasingly secular with only a residual and shrinking recollection of what it is all about. Indeed among many the word Christ is a word used as a profanity in everyday conversation. Does this vulgar use of the word somehow impart the sense that there is a great Christian consciousness among those who so it? Of course not.

Christ's Nativity has become at best a sentimental folk carnival with a nice story about a lovely baby born in a stable. He later was a good chap with a pleasing line in stories about being a good neighbour and met a shocking end! That is the level of understanding of some of the better informed children and adults I come across. The better informed! And you hang all your misplaced pride on the that the festival is still called Christmas? Even that is under attack in Tony Blair's Britain, in the name of bogus 'political correctness'. Schools escewing nativity plays and the like, in case it either offends or fails to include. Of course the children will experience celebrating Eid-al-fitr or Diwali.

If you or I were to draw comfort from the presence alone of the name of feast, then we are both deluded and foolish. Sorry but I am minded of being asked to give a quick description of the difference between neurosis and psychosis to which I replied, Neurotics build castles in the air, psychotics live in them, and the psychiatrist collects the rent. To me you appear to be living in a castle................ Sorry Angry
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« Reply #26 on: December 19, 2004, 05:53:28 PM »

Presumptions, presumptions, presumptions.....
iMan I was just making an observation.

Do you think that I don't know that these times are [or almost are] a parallel worldwide Sodom and Gomorra??
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« Reply #27 on: December 20, 2004, 05:35:40 AM »

One would be hard pressed to anticipate that based upon your previous contributions. But I am glad to learn neither of us is inhabiting those castles in the air. In my case heavier than air flight might be one thing but stretching the bounds of physics quite another................. Wink
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« Reply #28 on: December 20, 2004, 01:59:41 PM »

The so-called chrismas tree is an unfortunate pre-occupation provided by a western culture that is too far from the spiritual power and beauty of the Christian faith.

The "so called" Christmas tree is a tradition coming from the story of the Holy family's escape into Egypt.  They came to rest under a tree which became radiant with lights at the coming of the Christ-child.  Or at least this is what I have been told by my Spiritual Father. 
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« Reply #29 on: December 21, 2004, 02:08:33 PM »

I regrettably do not have the energy to type it out but a relevant article appeared in today's The Times, London.

The article written by an atheist, Anthony Browne, is headed "WE ARE COMMITTING CULTURAL SUICIDE; Christianityis being insidiously erased from the map. It's time we fought back.

The writer covers some ground I have gone over earlier in this thread. While I have some reservations the article is nevertheless interesting.
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« Reply #30 on: January 10, 2005, 07:09:10 PM »

I have been away and I am just now reading the responses to my comment regarding the christmas tree.

To start; Merry Christmas to all!.

Christ our savior is born!!...Amen.

I have re-read my original post and admit that it smacks with judgementalistic overture.

I am very sorry about that. And ask for the prayers of everyone.

God is merciful...Amen

What I intended was to bring out my opinion on the issue of the christmas tree.

I am an Orthodox Christian in the Ethiopian Church. The culture of the christmas tree within the ORTHODOX traditions of worship, celebration and praise of our lord does not seem to include this wonderful and exciting decoration. If someone can point me to such a tradition being embraced by the ORTHODOX let me know about this information (seriously!).

I want to be clear on this everyone. When I say "embraced by the ORTHODOX" I mean that the cuxstom originates with the Orthodox from the dawn of the traditions established for us BY OUR Holy fathers. Not that it something that we Orthodox have come to appreciate.

I am sure we undertand as Orthodox Christians that we are not suppose to except, allow or associate with behaviors or customs that are contrary to the teachings of God no matter how pretty or globally exceptable these customs may be.

God has provided His word for us so that we might know His rightiousness and dwell in His glory and protection as His followers, His people, the faithful, The believers in Christ His son the savior of the world.

I have read various books regarding the origin of the so-called Christmas tree to see if such a beloved tradition has a SPIRITUAL grounded origin and past. My research showed sadly for some that this tradition has no spiritual origin or past but comes from a very old custom practiced in various parts of Europe long before the birth of Christ our redeemer. My cross references and re-checks only further confirmed this. Thus Christianity appears to have no part in this tree decorating tradition at all.

Therefore even the term "chistmas tree" seems to prove invalid and thus not ORTHODOX.

I went further and questioned my Church fathers who were very helpful of course. I will admit that one of them who I respect highly (and always will) stated that "the tree decorating is not a FORMAL practice DOCTRINAL with ORTHODOXY and is therefore not part of Church tradition and practice; but however is widely excepted by many of the faithful; Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike". But he also told me..."Read the Bible daily since God will guide you in all Truth and that includes matters of customs and traditions He excepts or He does not except". He concluded..."Always follow what God excepts; it will be hard to go wrong; even though you will still err and sin along along the way".

So I followed his wise words.

To my shock I read in scripture about this very subject, this very custom of bringing trees into our houses and decorating them. And just as my historical research demonstrated; this tree decorating custom is very, very ancient indeed. But most importantly it is in plain english what God has to say about such traditions and what He wants us to do with regard to the custom as well as in dealing with those who practice the custom.

Amazing!

It is right in the Holy Bible.

I hope you all read it and pray on it and as always have your Holy Fathers guide you on it.

Again; I am regretful for the tone of my initial post on this subject. But I am better for it now.

Oh!
The reading I read was: JERIMIAH-CHAPTER 10:VERSES 1 THORUGH 5.

If you want read books on "The history of the Christmas tree" I forgot the writer. Check eBay or just do a google search.

If anyone intends to respond to this post please first read the above references and do some real studying first and talk with you Holy Fathers. I think it would improve on how we communicate the ideas envolved.



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"ETHIOPIA shall soon stretch out her hands unto God".....Psalm 68:vs 31

"Are ye not as children of the ETHIOPIANS unto me, O children of Israel"?....Amos 9: vs 7
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