Yearly each December, Christmas trees appear in malls and offices, and tree sales spring up on lots and street corners across the nation. It's just not Christmas in the U.S. without Christmas trees. Like many American customs, the Christmas tree tradition traveled from across the ocean to our shores. Author Rick Osborne set out to discover the origin of the Christmas tree and its connection to the essential Christmas story. The result is his most recent book, The Legend of the Christmas Tree.

Osborne might well have wondered about Christmas trees. He and his family live in Vancouver, British Columbia, near the heart of the evergreen industry. During a long airplane trip, his thoughts turned to the following sequence: God's gift of life, humankind's fall into sin and Christ's sacrifice to restore the wonderful relationship between God and man. Osborne began to see that the decorated tree represented joyous celebration in a much deeper way than merely exchanging presents. He decided his story would portray a family selecting a tree and sharing the decorating activity in other words, the family of God in celebration of His one great gift.

Much of the historical content in the story comes from a "grandfatherly man" at the tree farm where the family makes their purchase. He has three large, perfect trees set up in stands, each decorated differently. The old man tells the family three stories: how over a thousand years ago the monk Boniface had used the tree to describe the nature of God, how trees had been decorated in the Middle Ages with apples and bread twists to tell the story of Adam and Eve, and how Martin Luther used a tree decorated with candles to tell his children the story of the birth of Jesus.

When the family in The Legend of the Christmas Tree makes their piney purchase, they receive one more gift from the storyteller a small silver box. That gift is revealed at the book's end, putting the finishing touch on this tale of a Christmas celebration. It's a story Osborne hopes will help families understand how their Christmas tree brings true meaning to the celebration of the season.

Etta Wilson is a children's book enthusiast in Brentwood, Tennessee.

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