St Boniface, named Winfrid by his parents, was born at the end of the 7th century to a noble English family. He studied religion from an early age and could have had a prestigious career, but chose to lead the pious life of a missionary.
His mission led him to the “heathenism” of Germany, where he spent many years converting pagans to Christianity. On one of his missions, Boniface came upon the scared oak tree of the Pagan god Thor. In a symbolic act, Boniface cut down the oak tree to show the Pagans the powerlessness of their gods. When no god appeared to punish Boniface for this offense many of the Pagans were converted to Christianity.
The pagans revered the oak tree. The long burning, hard wood of the tree was a sign of the strength of the spirits who lived within. They worshiped Thor by sacrificing male slaves and animals, which they would hang from the tree’s branches.
Boniface, borrowing from the pagans established beliefs, turned the evergreen tree into a symbol of Christianity. Boniface told the people it was a representation of the life of Christ, the green leaves in the dark of winter symbolizing Christ’s light. The fall of the oak was a sign of the end of paganism, while the evergreen could symbolize the rise of the Catholic Church. This helped to easily convert the pagans because of their pre-existing opinions on the mysticism of the trees.
The tree became a sign of Christ for the German people, and it is now a symbol of Christmas for people around the world.