Christmas Tree Blessing
Of all the Christmas preparations I complete annually, decorating the Christmas tree is my favorite. Since my husband and I set a tree in our living room for our very first Christmas together as a married couple, the activity has been a joyful time of remembering. On that first Christmas tree, we combined ornaments we each brought with us from the Christmas trees of our childhoods with the ornaments received as wedding gifts and ornaments we collected as souvenirs during our 2-week honeymoon in New England. Year after year, the ornaments from that first tree were joined by other souvenir ornaments and those gifted to our children and each other over the last 32 years. Each time we trim our Christmas tree, we remember wonderful vacations, the places we visited, and the kids’ changing interests over the years.
“Remember the beach in New Jersey where the waves kept knocking us down and we couldn’t stop laughing?”
“Remember when we made our own candy bars at the Hersey factory tour in Pennsylvania?”
“I forgot how much Gracie loved My Little Pony!”
“How many Star Wars ornaments do we have, anyway?”
The tradition of decorating an evergreen tree in the home at Christmas time was started in Germany as early as the Middle Ages. Those trees were decorated with sweets, flowers and fruit. From the time of the Ancient Egyptians, Chinese and Hebrews, evergreens were used in decorating to symbolizing eternal life. Eventually, candles were added to give the tree light that symbolizes the Light of Christ.
The last decoration to go on our tree is the angel that adorns the top. We hold that back until everyone is home, and we do our annual tree blessing. We have been using the short prayer service contained in Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers for nearly 30 years. We gather the book, some holy water, and a recording of the Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Usually before we can begin, some bickering will break-out about whose turn it is to place the angel at the top of the tree. I have only to open our book of blessing and prayers to find the bookmark listing the years and who placed the angel each year. The Christmas tree blessing includes the reading from the Gospel of St. Luke(2:1-7):
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that the whole world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment,
when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth
to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem,
because he was of the house and family of David,
to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there,
the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son.
She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.
That scripture reading sets the tone for the Christmas season to truly begin. We bless ourselves and the tree with holy water and end with joyful singing of the hymn as our tree is lit. From that point on until Christmas morning, we keep our tree lit as it brings joy to our home and our celebration of the birth of the Christ Child.
A blessed and merry Christmas to you and all those you love.