St. Boniface (675-754 A.D.) was born in Anglo-Saxon England, and played a critical role in the Anglo-Saxon mission to the areas known as Germania. He was known as the “apostle of the Germans” and helped reform the Frankish church. Many Catholics today still consider him a German national figure.
He’s also credited with inventing the Christmas tree.
It’s a legend, buttressed by accounts form the 18th century onward, more than a thousand years after his death. It may, or may not, have some foundation in fact, but it is a charming story, and plays rather directly to his mission to the Frankish tribes.
In Kristoph and the First Christmas Tree, children’s writer Claudia Cangilla McAdam retells a fictional account of St. Boniface and the Christmas tree. Kristoph is an orphan boy, and he’s accompanying a priest to a village. Their journey is interrupted when they discover a boy being readied to be sacrificed by pagan tribesmen to a tree they worshipped. The priest confronts the men, and sets up a test – he will chop the huge tree down with one blow of the ax.
Illustrated by Dave Hill, the book is aimed at the 5- to 9-year-old age group. It’s a simple but exciting story, and knowing how it will likely end doesn’t detract from its charm.
McAdam is the author of numerous books for children and young adults, including Portraits of Character (2001), Do You See What I See? (2006), Maria’s Mysterious Mission (2007), Awakening (2009), Riddles in the Rodeo (2010), A,B, See Colorado (2012), The Christmas Tree Cried (2014), and The Mermaid’s Gift (2015). Hill, a native of Glasgow, is an illustrator of comic books, video games, and picture books, including Hildegard’s Gift (2014).
Kristoph and the First Christmas Tree, whether based on a legend or fact, is a delightful book for children and a Christmas story for all ages.
Top photograph by Pail Itkin via Unsplash. Used with permission.