Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Book 57 of 2014: The First Christmas Tree by Henry Van Dyke

Once again I'm reviewing a book which I read back in December of last year. This is practical because you might be looking to stock up on your Christmas reading material, after all, we're only six months away from the big day. You need to get organised early!

One of the free Kindle books I downloaded at some point in the past was The First Christmas Tree – A Story of the Forest by Henry Van Dyke. It's a very short little book telling the story of the first Christmas tree to be brought indoors for the celebration of Christmas

I imagine that at some point in the past, when it was first published, that it would have taken the form of a little religious pamphlet. The story is essentially about introducing pagans to Christianity and isn't particularly long. I read it in a day (and that includes finishing Will Grayson, Will Grayson).

I felt like the very beginning bit of the story didn't have a great deal of relevance to the rest of the story. I guess it served to introduce the characters of Gregor and Winfried but other than that it was kind of pointless. I would've rather had it just get into the actual meat of the story, considering it was so short this introduction ate into the rest of the book quite a bit.

From a more academic point of view, I think that the character of Gregor sort of takes the place of the reader. He's being educated as the story goes on; he's asking the sorts of questions that the reader might be expected to be asking.Winfried meanwhile is teaching him about Christianity, and through the story is educating the reader as well.

It was interesting to see how Winfried adopted a pagan ritual (with the tree) in order to bring them over to his side as he tried to encourage them to become Christian. I've read before that a lot of the rituals that Christian countries follow were actually assimilated from other pre-existing beliefs and religions. It's something I'd like to read into in greater detail.

In summary, good book, very short and interesting from a historical/religious perspective. Though it's unlikely to be one I'll revisit again any time soon.

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