Trinity Chrismon tree tells the story of the Christian faith

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From left, June Zhiss and Norma Thiese work on new Chrismons that will decorate a tree at Trinity Lutheran Church this holiday season. Each ornament has a symbolic meaning for Christians. (Press photo by Shelia Tomkins)

By Shelia Tomkins

History tells us that Christmas trees came into general popularity in Europe many centuries ago, when Christians adapted the pagan custom of decorating winter festivals with evergreens. It is speculated that Martin Luther was the first person to bring a tree into the house as part of  Christmas observances. In the 1800s, trees were mainly decorated with edible decorations.

Fast forward to 2018, when trees have become a widespread symbol of holiday cheer, decorated in everything from themes (sports, hobbies, decorator colors, etc.) to traditional beloved family ornaments.

A very special Christmas tree will be found this season in the sanctuary at Trinity Lutheran Church in Guttenberg. This lovely tree was recently refurbished with new Chrismons that are part of  Trinity congregation's tradition and also represent a deeper spiritual connection to the Christmas story. 

Chrismons are symbols from Christian history that tell the story  of Jesus. The word comes from a combination of the word "Christ" and "monograms." Chrismons first appeared on a Trinity Church tree in 1974 when women of the congregation made ornaments in accordance with designs or symbols drawn by early Christians. The beloved ornaments have been used at Trinity throughout the years since.

Parishioner Norma Thiese has a vivid memory of her first encounter with the Chrismon tree when she first came to the church 42 years ago. "I thought it was beautiful," she said. "I'll always remember it as being such a beautiful sight."

After 44 years of service, the original beaded Chrismons were "showing their age," according to parishioner June Zhiss. It was decided to make new ones for this year's tree.

Chrismon patterns were researched online by Thiese, and 12 symbols were chosen, plus an extra one. "We added the Luther Rose," said Thiese. 

The patterns were traced onto a special heavy white felt and cut out. The edges of each ornament were then adorned in gold glitter. Even the colors — white and gold — have meaning, symbolizing the purity and majesty of Jesus Christ.

Helping craft the new Chrismons were members of Trinity Ladies Aid in collaboration with the church's Sunday school program. 

"Each symbol will be explained during the Christmas Eve Sunday School program as to what it means and how it relates to us," said Zhiss. The program will take place at 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, and is open to the public. The Chrismon tree will join the traditional tree in the sanctuary, and the Sunday School students will unveil it to the congregation.  


The church appreciates the donation from Thrivent Financial which was used to purchase materials.

The Chrismon tree resides in the Trinity sanctuary, along with a traditional tree.

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