The tradition certainly didn’t start in Bethlehem, or anywhere near it. It’s thought that Christmas trees were first introduced to Germany in the 7th or 8th Century by a monk called Saint Boniface, and the practice of Christmas decorations spread to the rest of the western world from there.
There may well have been a genuine spiritual impulse behind this. The conical shape of the fir tree, for example, was said to represent the Holy Trinity, and the reason it was adorned with white candles may well have been because people at that time knew how to use the physical structure of the tree and the flames of the candles to anchor high spiritual forces during the Christmas period.
This knowledge has long since been lost, and what remains is a symbolic imitation, with many Christmas trees now made of plastic, and spiritual forces now symbolically represented by electric fairy lights, shiny balls, stars and angels.
The same is true of tinsel, which was introduced in the early 17th Century and was made of shredded strips of real silver. Originally I’m sure there would have been people who knew how to use the qualities of this precious metal to anchor the spiritual frequencies that resonate with it, but now it’s all plastic and purely for decoration.
In fact, Christmas decorations have become a huge, multi-billion dollar industry, tempting us all with their glitter and glitz. It’s the part of us that yearns for the spiritual realms from which we came that is so attracted to these items, but the sad fact is that no amount of tinsel can bridge that gap. There certainly are spiritual practices that can facilitate this, but decorating your home with Christmas bling isn’t one of them.
I’m not saying that Christmas decorations are bad or wrong. But you will certainly see how insubstantial they are if you ever go to Bali and experience first-hand the 10-day festival of Galungan, where the island’s 20,000 temples are adorned with decorations, and ancient rituals are used to invoke sacred presences. This is not symbolic. You can go to a temple, participate in the ceremony, and tangibly feel the presences land and wash over you. It’s deeply refreshing, revitalizing, uplifting. When you leave you feel like you are walking on air.
In Bali, as in the west, when the festive season is over, the decorations come down. In many western homes they are stored up in the attic or down in the basement, but clever commercial marketing and ever more tempting designs means the collection tends to grow with each passing year. One box becomes two, three, or ten. One woman I heard of recently has an entire room in her home just for storing Christmas décor.
So this year, when Christmas ends, I suggest you do some clutter clearing before you pack it all away. The first to go can be any decorations you didn’t like enough to put up this time. Next can be any that are broken, damaged, or beyond repair. Then seriously assess how long it takes you to put them all up and take them all down, and whether a more modest quantity would suffice. Or – dare I suggest it – none at all, now that you understand more about them.
Copyright © Karen Kingston 2014