Advent Calendar Day 18: O Tannenbaum

The popular legend, which I believed until I sat down to do my traditional pre-post Wikipedia sweep 10 minutes ago, has it that Martin Luther wrote this song, a legend presumably established by poorly educated Protestants who knew that the song was German, Luther was German, and what more do you freaking want, anyway?

So the shiny penny of truth has derailed the express freight of my original intentions, which would have allowed me to post the song that the hard-drinking poop-flinging* founder of the Protestant Reformation actually wrote, the awesome anthem “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”  Which hymn, it should be noted, has much more interesting lyrics than this Christmas tree business.

Of course, the other part of the legend is that Luther invented the Christmas tree, to commemorate Christ’s birth in a manner entirely free of papist idolatry.  Once again, history says nope.  This is in fact just one more pagan ritual, like the mistletoe, the holly berries, the Yule log, and so forth.  Dig up the foundations of the cathedral, and you find the remains of the temple that preceded it.  If you can’t handle it, you can always go sit in the fun-hating no-Christmas-having corner with Cotton Mather.

The Fir tree is evergreen.  Like Christ (and Balder, Mithras, Osiris, the Green Man and company), it does not die, reborn anew each year.

It endures.

It keeps the faith.

It may be slightly perverse, actually, to cut down a symbol of eternal life and display its corpse to commemorate this holy festival, but all that means is that there’s a little Good Friday waiting for us if we look at Christmas close enough, and I say that’s all to the good.  In the midst of life, we are in death.

Of whom can we seek succour but thee, o Lord?

Jesus Christ, evergreen, ever faithful.  Chop him down, and he comes back up.

It’s a Christmas Miracle.

*In fairness, to the best of my knowledge he only threw poop at the Devil, who certainly had it coming.


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