“The Thunder Oak” is a Scandinavian legend. The story takes place on Christmas Eve, deep in the forest where a giant tree grew, its branches reaching toward the clouds, Thor’s Thunder Oak. On this particular cold, moon-lit night, Thor’s priests were preparing to make their human sacrifice at the altar under the tree. But before the priest’s can kill their victims, Saint Winfred and his people came riding through the forest. The saint pulled out a golden axe and chopped down the mighty tree. Just behind it stood a small fir tree. Saint Winfred dropped his ax and turned to preach to the people.
This little tree, a young child of the forest, shall be your holy tree to-night. It is the tree of peace, for your houses are built of fir. It is the sign of endless life, for its leaves are forever green. See how it points upward to heaven! Let this be called the tree of the Christ Child. Gather about it, not in the wildwood, but in your own homes. There it will shelter no deeds of blood, but loving gifts and rites of kindness. So shall the peace of the White Christ reign in your hearts!
They took the fir tree back to the chief’s house, and had a Christmas full of good will and peace, that year and every following year.
You can read the legend for yourself here. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this story of why we have Christmas trees in our homes. It’s just a tradition I grew up with, one I never really gave much thought too. I do love our Christmas tree, though. We put it up the weekend after Thanksgiving right in the middle of our front window. I love all the decorations we’ve collected over the years, some from our childhoods, many from places we’ve gone, some fun ones, some pretty ones.
By the way, Saint Winfred is better known as Saint Boniface, a missionary who spread Christianity throughout the Frankish Empire during the 8th century. He has been called, for better or worse, “one of the truly outstanding creators of the first Europe, as the apostle of Germany, the reformer of the Frankish church, and the chief fomentor of the alliance between the papacy and the Carolingian family,” a noble Frankish family.
Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.