Do Not Decorate A Tree In The Bible

Theological Significance

The idea of decorating a tree in the Bible does not fit into any spiritual, moral, or religious convictions. Most religions frown upon participating in pagan worship practices, such as decorating a tree. Decorating a tree has been a part of various pagan rituals for centuries, and this practice has no place in a Christian household. The Bible does not have any direct reference to decorating a tree as a religious practice, but there are pieces of literature throughout the Bible that make it clear that celebrating pagan customs are contrary to the teachings of the faith.
For example, in the Old Testament YHWH instructs the Israelites to “abhor what is evil and cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). Additionally, this instruction is founded in the Ten Commandments when it states that no other gods or idols should be worshipped (Exodus 20:3). Moreover, there are several prophetic warnings throughout the Bible that God will punish those who worship other false gods or idols, which further shows that worshipping by decorating trees is not part for any spiritual or religious practice.

Biblical References

The symbolism of a decorated tree in the Bible is difficult to interpret in a spiritual context. For example, the book of Isaiah mentions a tree with “leaves for healing” that is called an “evergreen” (Isaiah 28:4). Similarly, the book of Ezekiel references a “fruit tree” with “banner sashes around its branches” (Ezekiel 17:3). The symbolic message in both of these passages is obscure, and it is difficult to determine if they are referencing a decorated tree or something else entirely.
Additionally, the New Testament has a few references to trees in the form of parables but there is no explanation of how their branches are decorated or how a tree might be adorned. For example, in the parable of the Barren Fig Tree (Luke 13:6-9), Jesus uses a fig tree to explain how a gardener waits to see if it will produce fruit. This parable is used to explain how patience and faith can be used to fully experience the rewards of the gospel. It is uncertain, however, if the fig tree was decorated, if it had banner sashes, or if the branches were bare.
These mysterious passages throughout the Bible make it hard to definitively say that decorating a tree is a biblical practice, as there is no clear direction from Scripture about how a spiritual tree should look.

Modern Adoption of Tree Decorations

Tree decorations have become commonplace in modern homes and cultures throughout the world, particularly during Christmastime. In modern Christian cultures, trees have been adopted and accepted as a festive symbol for the nativity season to celebrate the birth of Christ and commemorate Jesus’s death and resurrection. This practice, however, has been integrated over time into Christian culture and is “based on a pre-Christian Pagan practice of decorating a tree or other “living tree” in order to bring good luck during the winter.”
Decorating a tree in the modern age has become a secular practice, with few believers understanding its religious roots or connecting it to any spiritual significance. The decorations are meant to be a symbol of joy and not worshipped as idols as was the case in many pagan religious statues or effigies.

Some Experts’ Perspectives

Most theologians and scholars have agreed that decorating a tree has little spiritual significance and is more of a secular practice for social festivities. Reverend John Kleinig, a Professor of Systematic Theology from the Lutheran Church, suggests that Protestants have in general adopted life-affirming practices from pagan rituals to bring joy and peace during the spiritual observance of the nativities:

“In general, Protestants have followed the lead of the prophet Jeremiah, who declared what the children of Israel were to do at the Feast of the New Moons. Replace pagan religious practices with life-affirming acts that could be seen as being in accord with the true faith: feasting, rejoicing, sending presents to one another, and getting a tree and decorating it with lights and ornaments.” ~ Reverend John Kleinig

Martin Luther is also attributed as having introduced a “paradigm shift” in Christian culture to transfer spiritual importance from observing sacraments to celebrating “joyous festivals”, encouraging believers to “skip church services, listen to Christmas carols, and give gifts to one another throughout the nativity season.”

Evolution of Cultural Practices

The decorations that adorn a tree during the festive season have changed over the years. For example, garland, which is a traditional decoration made of flowers, greenery, and themed ornaments, is believed to have its roots in pre-Christian Roman customs and the druidic cultures of Europe. Mistletoe has similarly had a long tradition, originating in Norse mythology and used in rituals to ward off evil spirits.
The modern practice of adorning a tree with ornaments, lights, and gifts is a combination of several different cultural traditions and continues to evolve every year. In some households, the process of decorating has become an event of its own as families come together to set up the tree and experience joy, fellowship, and peace as they decorate.

Implications for Christian Believers

Since decorating a tree does not have any biblical reference, many Christian scholars have argued that the practice “should be done for the purpose of peace, joy, and redemption,” and not to try to force a pre-Christian, pagan meaning upon it. There is also an opportunity for Christians to recognize the spiritual symbolism behind certain decorations and use them as a reminder of our faith.
The spiritual symbolism of decorations should be tailored uniquely to every Christian family and their beliefs, and not be confined to contexts of traditions outside the Bible. For example, it could serve as a reminder to maintain humility, courage, and strength in our relationship with God by incorporating decorative ornaments of these qualities.

Modern and Traditional Decorations

Modern decorations often incorporate faith-based imagery to remind us of the joy and redemption of the nativities. Some of the most iconic decorations are angels and stars, symbols of the messengers from heaven that both welcomed the newborn King and led the wise men to Him. Nativity scenes have also become popular decorative pieces to place around the tree, adding a touch of Jesus to the decorations and reminding us of the reason for the celebration.
Other traditional decorations have a deep spiritualmeaning, even though the symbols may have come from other sources. Garlands, for example, are believed to represent eternal life and the passage of time. Similarly, wreaths are often hung on doors to reminiscent of a crown of victory and Christ’s life, death and resurrection.

Alternative Ways to Express Faith

Christian families often like to express their faith during the Christmas season, and this can be done without a tree or decorations. For example, it could be as simple as giving a gift to a loved one or having a family gathering to join in song and prayer. Additionally, faith-filled activities can also be a part of the celebration, such as worshipping through music, reading a sermon, or observing a religious service.
Rotating decorations is a popular way to express faith without a tree. Smaller decorations could be placed throughout the home in important places to remind the family of its faith. This practice is also an effective way to show children that faith belongs in every room of the house, including spare bedrooms and living rooms.

Promoting Mindfulness Through Decorating

The act of decorating also has a spiritual outlet. Decorating with a mindful attitude and purpose can be an opportunity to slow down and focus on the things we appreciate in life. Instead of simply hanging decorations to the tree, it could be a time for reflection and meditations about the things that are important to our family.
Shifting the focus to gratitude can help create a sense of peace, joy, and goodwill during the holiday season. It can be a powerful reminder of how blessed we are and how spiritual blessings can come through our faith in Jesus. Celebrating in this way helps to restore and build stronger relationships with others as we express our love and appreciation for each other.

Finding Alternative Ways to Celebrate

For families who still want to celebrate but would like to avoid the idea of a decorated tree, there are many other ways to bring joy and peace into the home. For example, small family gatherings with traditional carols and prayers could be incorporated, as well as celebratory meals or discussions about current relief efforts around the world.
Consider writing thank-you letters to the people who make a positive impact in your life, such as a beloved pastor or a kind neighbor. Sharing stories of inspiring people, doing small acts of kindness, or creating a service project can help bring a strong spiritual message to the celebration.

Using Nativities Figures and Scenes

For those who do want to decorate, consider adding Nativity figures and scenes to the decorations. This is a powerful way to remember the birth of Jesus, recognize Mary and Joseph’s journey and celebrate the life and example of Jesus Christ. Placing these figures around the house can be a reminder of Jesus’s love and sacrifice, and help to focus on why we celebrate at Christmastime.
These figures can be made with many different materials to suit every family. Wood and fabric can be used for larger pieces, while smaller figures can be crafted from polymer clay, papier-mâché, soap, or other items that can be seen around the home.


Decorating a tree has been a part of many cultures throughout the years, but the spiritual and religious beliefs of many Christians are contrary to this practice, as pagan worship practices are not supported by their faith. However, the decorations and symbols used in tree decorations have a religious heartfelt message that can be equally as powerful and meaningful as a tree, by reminding us of the birth of Jesus and celebrating the joy and redemption found in Christ’s teachings. While there is no biblical reference to the practice of decorating trees, there is an opportunity to reimagine the decorations in creative and meaningful ways, focusing on spiritual values and strengthening relationships within the Christian community.

Marcos Reyna is a Christian author and speaker. He is dedicated to helping create disciples of Christ through spreading the power of the gospel to others. He has written several books and articles on a variety of theological topics, including matters of faith, worship, biblical studies, practical ethics, and social justice. A trained theologian and devotee of spiritual writing, Marcos has a mission to spread Christian love everywhere. He lives with his family in Nashville, TN where he spends his days encouraging others to seek Christ's grace in all things.

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