While reading about the origins of Christmas tree decorating, I came across this verse from the Bible, which appears to mention decorated trees... as an idol!
1 Hear what the LORD says to you, O house of Israel.
2 This is what the LORD says:
"Do not learn the ways of the nations
or be terrified by signs in the sky,
though the nations are terrified by them.
3 For the customs of the peoples are worthless;
they cut a tree out of the forest,
and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.
4 They adorn it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so it will not totter.
5 Like a scarecrow in a melon patch,
their idols cannot speak;
they must be carried
because they cannot walk.
Do not fear them;
they can do no harm
nor can they do any good."
-Jeremiah 10:1-5 (NIV)Hmmm... cutting down a tree and shaping it and making sure it doesn't fall over and adorning it with gold and silver... that sounds like what lots of Christians do around this time of year! (Or it could have been referring to something carved out of the tree...)
On the other hand, according to Christian tradition, St. Boniface in 8th-century Germany started the Christmas tree tradition with the opposite purpose, as a living reminder of Christ in or around their homes.
The Oak of Thor at Geismar was chopped down by Boniface in a stage-managed confrontation with the old gods and local heathen tribes. A fir tree growing in the roots of the Oak was claimed by Boniface as a new symbol. "This humble tree's wood is used to build your homes: let Christ be at the centre of your households. Its leaves remain evergreen in the darkest days: let Christ be your constant light. Its boughs reach out to embrace and its top points to heaven: let Christ be your Comfort and Guide".
- from crediton.com
I guess, like with most religious traditions, it's not really about the object, it's about the intention.
Although I realize that most Christmas trees in America are not set up with any religious intent, I just found this to be an interesting dichotomy!