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ARC Home > News and Resources > News archive:

Real or fake: which Christmas tree is more eco-friendly?

December 21, 2011:

Christmas tree lights, by Jeff Babbitt

As millions of people around the world prepare to celebrate Christmas Day on Sunday, many find themselves pondering a question which arises at this time of year: which is more environmentally friendly - a real or fake Christmas tree?

Is it better to cut down a live Christmas tree every year or buy a fake one that you re-use again and again? Eco-blogger Pablo Paster at TreeHugger.com has delved into the issue to provide an answer for the eco-conscious this holiday season. You can read his article here.

The first crib

Nativity scene, by Timothy Tolle
Having recently returned from Assisi, Italy, birthplace of the Catholic patron saint of ecology where we launched the Green Pilgrimage Network last month, those of us at ARC are reminded that St Francis is credited with creating the first crib at a nearby town called Greccio.

St Francis said: "For I wish to do something that will recall to memory the little Child who was born in Bethlehem and set before our bodily eyes in some way the inconveniences of his infant needs; how he lay in a manager; how, with an ox and an ass standing by, he lay upon the hay where he had been placed."

And so the manger was prepared, the hay brought, the ox and ass led in, and people came with candles and torches to light up that night, writes Thomas of Celano in his book on the life and acts of St Francis.

St Francis of Assisi
"There simplicity was honoured, poverty was exalted, humility was commended, and Greccio was made, as it were, a new Bethlehem. The night was lighted up like the day, and it delighted men and beasts. The people came and were filled with new joy over the new mystery," writes Thomas.

"The woods rang with the voices of the crowd and the rocks made answer to their jubilation. The brothers sang, paying their debt of praise to the Lord, and the whole night resounded with their rejoicing. The saint of God stood before the manger, uttering sighs, overcome with love, and filled with a wonderful happiness. The solemnities of the Mass were celebrated over the manger and the priest experienced a new consolation."

Inspired by nature

Martin Luther, the German theologian whose teachings inspired the Protestant Reformation, is said to have begun the tradition of decorating trees to celebrate Christmas.

Like St Francis, who had also been inspired by the sight of trees in moonlight, Martin Luther was struck by the beauty of snow-covered evergreen trees glimmering in the moonlight as he walked through a forest around 1500. He thought how beautifully Nature decorated God's Creation and brought a fir tree indoors and decorated it with candles in honour of Christ's birth.

"In a sense the Christmas tree is an expression of how nature decorates itself in honour of the Creator," says ARC Secretary General Martin Palmer.

A very Happy Christmas to you all!

So whichever tree you choose to use - real, fake or none - ARC would like to wish you a very happy and joyful Christmas, and a very good year ahead!

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Related pages

October 6, 2011:
PRESS RELEASE: Green Pilgrimage Network to launch in Assisi
The first global network aimed at greening pilgrimage - the largest movement of people worldwide - will be launched in the presence of Prince Philip at the Sacred Land celebration in Assisi, Italy, later this month.
The inspiring life of St Francis of Assisi, patron saint of ecology
St Francis is known as the patron saint of ecology. He has inspired many followers because of the sheer scale and breadth of his love, not just for the poor and the despised.
ARC and the Faiths
Faith communities are working in countless ways to care for the environment. This section outlines the basics of each faith’s history, beliefs and teachings on ecology.