Have you ever wondered why we set up an evergreen tree around this time of year and most of all why do we decorate it? Well the evergreen tree goes way back before Christianity to Romans and Celts, but this blog wouldn’t be called the undercover viking if I didn’t tell you about the viking customs.
In the period from the 21th and the 12days after the old Norse believed that the layer between life and death was so thin that the dead could walk around at night and bad wights (spirits) would roam and hurt the living. They believed this period to be the in between year, not really one year and not really the new one yet. So nobody went out in the dark by themselves, always in groups and mostly singing (because what do you do when you are afraid, you make noise).
Where does the evergreen tree come in? Well to attract the good house wights and give them a place to live, the old Norse would have a tree outside and decorate it with colored ribbons and same thing with the wreath. The tree only moved indoors after Christianity took over, at first to hide the practice of decorating tree (you should read Jeremiah 10:1-25 which condemns the decorating of tree’s from the forest) and eventually because Christian leaders understood they could not with so the evergreen tree symbolized the everlasting light of the lord (if you cant win, join them).
Today many people say that Christmas or Yule tide is a commercial game and they might be somewhat right, but even the gifting is something the old Norse used to do right around this period. I keep finding different reasons why, one talks about Thor being the one to bring gifts to his most loyal followers, one talk about giving gifts to your closest friend and kin and yet another talks about giving gifts to keep evil at bay.
So set your tree and hang your wreath, inside or out your house wights will be glad they have a place to hide and the legend says that if you hang bells in your tree and it chimes, its a pleased house wight letting you know you have its blessing.