By Brenna Hall

Clara and Maria entered their house and closed the door.

They were living in Germany in about 1572 and they had just come in from getting apples. They had just brought home apples from the market and were now getting thin cookies, cutting out paper roses and apples to put on their Christmas tree.

Maria, the younger of the two sisters, asked, "Why do we use green and red at Christmastime?"

Clara, the oldest said, "Well, we use green because we use evergreens like our tree. Evergreens represent everlasting life. Christ died for us and he still lives -- maybe not on earth but in heaven. That is what everlasting life is." While the girls decorated the rest of the tree, Clara continued telling Maria other legends and stories of the green and red colors at Christmas.

"Even before Christ, there were men and women called druids that worshipped the earth. They used evergreens in the winter to show that the woodland and fairies live with them during winter.

The Romans kept branches during winter through the beginning of January and then they would exchange branches with their friends. They would trade them to show a sign of good luck.

The Egyptians treasured and worshipped evergreens. When the winter solstice arrived they would bring palm trees into their homes to show triumph over death, even though it doesn't last all through winter.

There are even several legends of the Christmas tree. Like Martin Luther, in the year 1535. I will tell you about him. He was the one that first put lights on the Christmas tree. He was walking home one evening after he had been giving a sermon and he saw the stars above the evergreens and he was very amazed. He wanted to be able to show his family and recapture the scene so he brought candles and a tree into his living room, put the candles on the tree and that is how we got the lights."

Maria smiled and looked up at their tree. She loved Christmas. The tree made the drab days of winter just outside their little home a lot brighter. "Do you know any more stories?" she asked.

"I know two more," Clara continued.

"One about a man named Saint Boniface. Saint Boniface was an English missionary and was out walking when he came upon some men about to cut a huge oak tree as a stake for a human sacrifice to their pagan god. With one mighty blow, Saint Boniface chopped down the tree and a beautiful young fir tree sprang from the center. He told the men that its branches were pointing to heaven.

My last story to tell you is about a poor woodsman. He was walking home one night when he came upon a hungry child. Even though he was very poor himself he gave the child food and shelter for the night. When he awoke the next morning he rose to find a sparkling tree outside his house. The child was really the Christ child in disguise. And the tree was a gift as a reward for his charity."

Maria smiled again as the thought of her own Christmas tree warmed her. "Before you were born and I was very young, there were these things called Paradise Plays." Clara said.

"They were plays showing parts of the Bible. And they had things in them like evergreens and apples, wafers and things like we are using right now. They were plays of the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve. The apples were the fruit and they would play out the story every year on December 24th."

Clara paused, and then frowned a little. "But a little while after the people in the plays became very rude. And the Catholic Church didn't think the plays were very respectful. So they made it so we couldn't have those plays anymore."

Clara stopped and thought for a moment. "Well, I have explained green and I guess these plays are a good way to explain why we use red."

"First, remember how I told about the apples from the Paradise Plays? They were red. They were used to represent the fall of Adam. When the Church stopped the plays people brought trees into their homes and now we use apples in our celebrations at home."

"Holly is also red and is used to represent Christ's drops of blood. The Romans used holly to make wreathes to represent the crown of thorns that Christ wore. Druids, the men and women that worship the earth, used holly in the winter to show that during winter when all the trees lose their leaves there is still beauty on earth. They also wore holly in their hair when they went to watch the Pagan priests cut the mistletoe."

About one hundred to two hundred years after Maria and Clara's time, German and English people coming to America, brought the Christmas tree tradition with them. Now, four hundred years after Maria and Clara's time things have changed a lot. Today we still use evergreens at Christmas time, but sometimes now we even use artificial trees.

We use red and green with the tree, decorations, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons. Red and green is used everywhere!

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You've been listening to the Guitar Artistry of Doug Simpson
Song Title: Go Tell It on the Mountain
From his Album CD titled: Home for the Holidays

Written Article by Brenna Hall - Used by permission of
My Merry Christmas and Jeff Westover, Editor

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