A common figure that stands in science, religion, philosophy and mythology of the world is the tree of life. As it alludes of all life on our planet, it is a metaphor for the circle of life that we all go through as human beings. It is the tree of knowledge to Christians that connects Adam and Eve to the creation history. But long before the advent of Christianity, plants and trees that remained green all year round had a significant meaning in their lives. Just as we today decorate our homes with (artificial) pine, spruce or fir trees, ancient men and women hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows, a tradition they believed to safeguard them from evil spirits. So even during winter, the evergreens reminded them of life and that the other green plants which otherwise turned brown and lifeless during the cold season, would grow again in the summer time. The modern-day custom of the Christmas tree only came later in the 16th century, thanks to Germany, in which devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some people then were seen stacking up pyramids of wood and logs, and evergreens and candles, mainly by the fireplace to keep them warm in the winter. It is also a popular belief that Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, was the inventor of the lighted Christmas tree. The story tells us that he wandered through a forest one winter evening to compose a sermon. “I see a star shining!”, he said. There he saw many other stars twinkling and glittering amidst the row of evergreens he passed by as though the trees were bejeweled with light. Awed with the scene, he went home rushing to his children with excitement. He was inspired to immortalize the picture in his head so he cut down a little tree, erected it in the main family hall and wired its branches with lighted candles.
As we gather around our loved ones this holiday season to feast on food, presents and thanksgiving, let the iconic tree that we all have come to love be a reason for us to simply smile and celebrate life on earth. Like God’s love planted in the deepest recesses of our hearts, may the tree of life’s evergreen leaves show us undying hope to come full circle and live all our days with purpose and responsibility. May its bright lights bring us joy to face the world’s most pressing problems and challenges. May the colorful trimmings and blooms feed us with peace, the unifying key to international solidarity. And may that tree topper star bring us the love of Jesus Christ, who himself is the star of the Noche Buena and the supreme gift to humanity.