Ever wonder where Christmas trees came from? Claudia Cangilla McAdam’s Kristoph and the First Christmas Tree describes the story:
It was Christmas Eve in the year of our Lord, 722, Kristoph, an orphan boy, went with missionary priest, Boniface through the countryside, hurrying to reach the village before nightfall. They come upon a group of people in the forest worshiping an oak tree, . There is a boy bound in their midst. Boniface intervenes, the pagan worshippers sneer. To prove that the oak was powerless and that Boniface’s God was not, Boniface fells the oak with a single stroke of his axe. The sacred oak was destroyed, but inside its trunk was a fir tree as big as man. Boniface called it “the tree of the Christ Child,” and instructed the men to bring this tree into their home, warning them “it will not shelter evil deeds, loving gifts and lights of kindness.” He chops down the fir tree with a single stroke of the axe, and the men carry it away. Boniface, Kristoph accompany the rescued child, the son of a Chieftain, to his home with the promise of Christmas dinner awaiting them. They find another evergreen along the way, and cut it down for their celebration. This time it takes three whacks for Boniface to fell the tree. The decorate the tree, topping it with a beeswax candle.
This is the stuff of legend. There really was a Saint Boniface who led the Anglo-Saxon mission to Germania. He really did fell a Great Oak tree worshipped by the land’s pagan inhabitants (somewhere near Hesse, Germany). Did Boniface cut it down with one axe strike? Was there a fir tree growing from the stump? Who’s to say? I wasn’t there.
McAdam’s telling of the story is a fun folk tale for children, accompanied by Dave Hill’s illustration (Hill was the illustrator for the brilliant and beautiful Hildegard’s Gift). The story is entertaining for kids of all ages. The book closes with a prayer of blessing for a Christmas tree based on St. Boniface’s words. I give this four stars! ★★★★
Notice of material connection: I received a copy of this book from Paraclete Press in exchange for my honest review.