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Hope for Christmas: The Psychological Meaning of the Christmas Tree


Given that the Christmas season is upon us, I felt compelled to write a short piece on the meaning of the Christmas tree. Over time, certain traditional symbols have become so commonplace that we can sometimes forget to think about their meaning or origin. Like most symbols, the Christmas tree is polysemic, which indicates that it is replete with a multitude of meanings. Given that this is the case, this article will not be an exhaustive meditation on the meaning of the Christmas tree. However, I hope that this commentary will give you something to think about during this holiday season. 

Prior to the advent of Christmas, pagans would decorate their homes with evergreen fur branches in order to remind them of the coming spring while in the midst of winter. Over time, Christians adapted this tradition, and the evergreen tree has since become the perennial symbol of Christmas. For Christians, the evergreen tree came to represent the Tree of Life that is alluded to in the Garden of Eden. Moreover, it came to represent nativity and everlasting life with God, even while surrounded by death. Unlike many other trees or forms of vegetation, evergreens maintain their needles and foliage in the wintertime, which is a reminder that life is to still be found even when mired in bleakness and death.

If you’re experiencing overwhelming darkness this holiday season, I hope that you’re able to look to the Christmas tree as a symbol of hope that light persists even amid the darkness.


References

Cooper, J. (2019). The history of the Christmas tree. Why Christmas? https://www.whychristmas.com/customs/trees.shtml

Making A Plan For A Happy Holiday


Think About It

  1. What is one thing that you’ve experienced on a past holiday that you do not want to repeat this year?
  • Drinking too much / using drugs
  • Spending the holiday alone at home and feeling lonely
  • Conflict with family or friends
  • Feeling guilty or sad that I had nothing to give
  • Feeling depressed 
  • Wanting to hurt myself or someone else

Future Brighter Holidays

2. Can you avoid what you checked this holiday and commit not to do it?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Maybe

Check one box under each category that you would like to do this holiday:

Physical

  • Eat healthy foods (substitute fruit for sweets or vegetables for chips!)
  • Get exercise (bundle up and go for a walk)
  • Drink plenty of water (limit alcohol and caffeine)
  • Get enough sleep (7-9 hours each night)
  • Practice good hygiene (get out of your pajamas and put on something nice!)

Mental

  • Make a plan: Take action and decide fun ways to spend your Holiday Season with others. 
  • Don’t fake it: embrace both good and bad feelings.
  • Create a tradition for yourself: light a candle, talk with a friend, say a prayer, sing a favorite song.
  • Tell yourself that it doesn’t have to be the “best time of the year.”

Social

  • Plan your holidays ahead of time (where will you go for the meal?)
  • Plane to be with people you enjoy.
  • Talk about your feelings. Cry, laugh. Do not try to hide your honest emotions.
  • However, if you find yourself getting angry, take 3 deep breaths and remove yourself from the situation.
  • Put some effort into seeing that someone else has a wonderful holiday. Serve at shelter. Ask if you can help set up for a dinner. Find satisfaction in doing for others.

3. Now circle just one of the things you checked above that you will commit to doing this holiday. 

I _________________________________ (your name) commit to thriving and living with less stress this Holiday Season. 

Date: ____________________________

Can you mark yes to question #1 now?

If you want to discuss this further feel free to contact Cornerstone Counseling Center of Chicago (312) 573-8860 or cccoc@chicagocounseling.org

*Please note if at any time you feel overwhelmed or that you may hurt yourself, please call the Northwestern Crisis Hotline at: (312) 926-8100 or 911 or go to your nearest Emergency Room. 

Cornerstone Counseling Center of Chicago