The Winter Solstice, Tree Symbolism and Sacred Inspiration

During the season of the winter solstice, evergreen trees have special significance, symbolism, and provide sacred inspiration.

Oregon Evergreens
When I first moved to Oregon, I could not help but notice that the State remained very green even through the winter years. Of course this was because evergreens are densely populated throughout the state.

Driving on each of the three highways between Portland, Salem, and Eugene to the Oregon coast was like driving through a sea of green on the way to the ocean of blue.

My Denver Evergreen NeighborsThe photo to the left are two very large silver tip evergreens next to where I live in Denver, about 20 feet from my front door next to Bear Creek trail. They are majestic, thriving, and an inspiration every time I walk past them.

They remind me of the symbolism of the holiday tree during this season that has ancient roots that predates Christianity. The image of a tree of life or world tree  occurs in many mythologies and traditions.  J.R.R. Tolkien developed tree symbolism in his writings, drawing from ancient traditions and myths. These trees are living and stand year round in their majesty and beauty.

Our Modern Culture Holiday Tree

For some, the traditional Christmas tree name has been replaced by the name Holiday Tree. Another name could be Sacred Tree. Whatever name you choose freely to call it, the evergreen tree as known in our modern culture can be very inspiring, without even knowing the ancient roots. The warmth of a lighted tree decorated with ornaments, special items, small gift cards, and an assortment of things that are meaningful to us and our families can be a centerpiece in the living room for all to enjoy. Gifts are placed under the tree, so it represents a very special place of giving and love between family and friends. It is like an altar for the sacred season, and can be like an object of worship for what it represents. Almost everyone loves having a evergreen Tree in the living room.

However, just as holiday trees are cut and separated from their roots to be placed in a living room, has our culture been cut off from the ancient symbols of the evergreen tree? Have we been cut off from a connection to the roots and the living energy of the Earth?

Ancient Roots of Tree Symbolism
Pre-Christian roots of tree symbolism, especially at the start of winter are connected with the Winter Solstice celebrations and traditions that are thousands of years old. These roots are still active in the astronomical and astrological significance of the Winter Solstice date, on December 21-22. . In the Southern hemisphere the Winter Solstice is exactly the opposite and occurs on June 21-22. The Summer Solstice in the Southern hemisphere occurs on December 21-22. The Earth has both going on at the same time, as opposites, similar to the balance of the circular Yin-Yang symbol. Just like a full moon, the solstices represent a powerful shift in astronomical energy, the darkest or lightest day of the year depending on which hemisphere you are in.

When we connect with ancient traditions and symbolism of anything sacred, it can empower us to feel inspired that we are connected with the stories, the myths, the metaphors, and the archetypes of ancient tree wisdom in our DNA, our bones, our collective memory, and our souls.

What is the symbolism of evergreen trees during the Winter Solstice season that can provide us with reflection and inspiration?

> The evergreens represent eternal life, that goes on even in the midst of winter when all the other trees seem "dead". Egyptians viewed evergreens as a sign of victory over death and brought greens into their homes during the Winter Solstice.

> The evergreen trees also are connected to the Green Man mythology and archetype, which honors the Earth, especially the plant kingdom.

> Trees in general and evergreens during the Winter Solstice season not only are symbols, but contain their own spirit connected to the Divine Spirit within all things.

> Holly and mistletoe are also evergreens that thrive in Winter, have their own traditions, and are associated with using evergreen trees during the season.

Beyond symbolism, evergreen pines have been used as sacred medicine for thousands of years by indigenous tribes. In an article titled "A Winter Shrine to the Sacred Pine", different parts of the tree are described as having medicinal properties and provides some basic recipes such as pine needle tea. 

In this sacred season, I am paying more attention to my evergreen neighbors, knowing that they are living trees that have deep symbolism, and when I touch their branches, and silver-tip pine needles, I am connected to the Earth in a different way. They remind me to celebrate life, with love and gratitude within this season and all seasons.

For another blog post on trees, see "The Ancient Redwoods Spoke to Me".