A Missouri Botanical Garden fact sheet on “Selection and Care of Christmas Trees” opens with a brief history about the first time Christmas was celebrated on December 25.
First recorded Christmas
Dan Graves writing in June 2007 for Christianity.com confirmed the information was found on a note from an old list of Roman bishops. Translated from Latin to English it says: “December 25th, Christ born in Bethlehem, Judea.”
As to how that date was established, Ted Olsen wrote in the March 2010 edition of Christianity.com about historian William J. Tighe’s research.
- Tighe noted a belief in Judaism that prophets died on the same day of the month they had been conceived.
- Latin Christians (West) accepting that Jesus died — and thus would have been conceived on March 25, celebrate Christmas on December 25, the prevailing practice.
- Greek Christians (East) accepting that Jesus died — and thus would have been conceived on April 6, celebrate his birth nine months later on January 6.
Pro-life and the Annunciation
With historical emphasis on conception, no wonder Olsen questioned why pro-life evangelical Protestants associate Christ’s conception in Mary’s womb – the Incarnation, more with his birth into the world at Christmas than with the Annunciation.
Perhaps surprising to many there was a time when Christmas was banned, in England until 1660:
… during the sixteenth and seventeenth century by Puritans … who believed that people needed strict rules to be religious and that any kind of merrymaking was sinful.
And Christmas was illegal in Boston from 1659 to 1681, as were mince pies and pudding.
Back to the trees…
Scotch pine and Douglas fir are the most popular Christmas trees in the country overall. In Missouri the most popular are the Scotch pine and the Eastern white pine, the latter being the second tallest pine tree in the U.S.
For more information check out the Missouri Botanical Fact Sheet.