The Lahti's Xmas Tree

The smell of candles, and fir needles filled the room as Annie Lahti placed cards and Christmas decorations on the walls of their "entertainment room."

Annie's daughter Emmi was a very precocious 4 going on 9.  One could tell that she was very serious about how her mother decorated their entertainment room.  She was very quick to let her mother know when a card was not straight or an ornament was misplaced. 

"Mama, when will we get our Christmas Tree?" Asked Emmi. 

"Doc Harry and Mr. Eagle will be bringing it shortly; they're getting it from the Kiwanis people in Clatskanie."

The door opened on cue, and a jolly Doc Harry and a muddy Mr. Eagle were at the door.

"How is it that your feet are muddy and Harry's aren't?" Asked Annie

"Very simple," said I. "I carried the tree, and Doc Harry directed me where to go…right through a mud puddle."

"You need to listen better." Said Harry.

"…And you need to carry the tree next time." I muttered as I took off my shoes and removed wet stockings from my feet.

"You can dry your socks by the wood stove," said Annie.  "I have some dollar store slippers that you can wear while you wait for them to dry."

I accepted Annie's offer and put the slippers on. Harry and I, with Annie's direction, helped set the tree in its stand. I tightened the screws at the stands base, while Harry made sure that the tree was properly upright.   

"Look Daddy, look at our tree!" Screamed Emmi, as her father walked through the door.

"You guys picked out a beautiful fir," said Sulo as he removed his rubber boots and raincoat.   Sulo took off a wet ball cap.  He grabbed a towel off a wall hook and rubbed it across his head.  "The cows don't care what the weather is like, they still need to be fed.  I probably should consider working for wages instead of raising calves."

"I have to admit that I did a pretty good job of finding you a tree." Bragged Harry.  "I would hate to leave it up to Eagle.  He doesn't have either good taste or good judgment."

"Yeah," said I. "Look who I picked for a friend."

"The tree does look nice" remarked Annie.  I didn't do a proper meal today. I did make some cold sandwiches, and potato salad. Sulo would also like you to try his Marionberry wine."

"I'm all for that" remarked Harry.   Harry looked at little Emmi; "You guys all go to the Lutheran Church here, so you probably know that Martin Luther created the first Christmas tree."

"Is that so?"  I asked.

"That's the truth," said Harry. "In 1510, Martin Luther was walking through a forest in Riga.  He was so struck by the beauty of the moonlight shining down through the branches of the fir trees, that he chopped a small one down and brought it home for his kids.  Martin Luther attached candles to its branches to recreate moonlight and in doing so invented the world's first decorated tree."

Annie laughed. "I heard that story, but I am afraid that it has some problems.  Martin Luther lived in Saxony Germany not Riga.  Riga is in the country of Latvia.  He wasn't even married in 1510, at that time he was still a monk.  He didn't marry until1525."

Harry grinned. "He may still have had kids.  Lots of clergy did in those days.  I know that some of the Popes had lots of kids."

I carried some Christmas ornaments over to the tree. "Pope Alexander the VI had three mistresses and five children, and Julius II had a daughter, but I don't think Luther had any children out of wedlock.  The man was pretty straight arrow.  I agree with Annie, in 1510 he had not yet tacked his 95 Theses to the door at the Church in Wittenberg." 

Annie interjected "That was in 1517."

Annie's husband Sulo poured some wine for himself and Harry.  "I think that people have combined two stories together.  Luther may have popularized the Christmas tree for Germans, but I believe that the people in Latvia may or may not have been the first to decorate a tree."

Sulo's face broke into a head splitting grin "Germany or Latvia may be able to claim the Christmas tree, but Finland can claim Santa."

I commented: "I thought that his home was the North Pole."

"No" said Sulo, "His home is Finland. Our name for him is
"Joulupukki" and he is a Laplander; that is why he has reindeer to pull his sleigh."

"How about Saint Nicholas?"  I asked.  "He came from Italy."

"No he didn't," said Harry.  "He was Greek. He lived in what is now the southern coast of Turkey.  I think that somehow people got him mixed up with Father Christmas and
Joulupukki or Santa."  Harry continued: " Father Christmas, Father Frost, Joulupukki, Kris Kringle, Père Noël, Sabdiklos, Saint Nicolas, Sancte Claus, Sinter Klaas, Weihnachtsmann are all tied together and they belong to all of us, not just to the Fins or the Italians."

I grinned: "Sort of like Martin Luther and St. Urho?"

No, interjected Sulo: "St. Urho belongs to the Fins, but Santa and the Christmas tree have an even wider appeal.   
What Santa represents has been perverted by commercial interests to encourage people to spend lots of money…That is not the way it should be.  Santa represents the spirit of giving, care for children and concern for the poor.    He represents love and charity, the very essence of the Christian faith… not buying sprees and end year profit statements.
Christmas has an even greater meaning for people of faith.  Annie did a program in Sunday School about the Christmas tree."

"I did" said Annie. "The triangular shape of the tree represents the concept of the trinity.   Fir branches reach up and point toward God.  Evergreens represent the eternal, and the color green represents life. On an evergreen tree, the needles grow upward, like hands praising God, the lights on our tree represent the lights of God's creation, and the gifts underneath it represent care, concern, generosity and love."

Annie continued: "I don't really think that it matters who invented the Christmas tree, nor does it matter who Santa is and what his origins are.   What does matter is that we take time to rekindle friendships. Take time to gather with people we love, and most important to share the love that God gave us when he sent us our Savior.   We should share, not necessarily presents, but love, compassion and concern for all on this very special day, the day that our Savior was born."

"God Bless," said Sulo. "We wish you all a very Merry and meaningful Christmas."


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