When I was a child and we lived in Philadelphia I mingled easily with American children and naturally at Christmas time I wanted a decorated tree with real presents. I finally got the tree and a few presents but I also learned that traditions among religions are different. I learned that as Muslims we regarded Jesus as a Divine Prophet,a human being chosen as a Messenger. As many Muslims and Iranians living there, I enjoyed celebrating both Islamic and Christian occasions but also Iranian as well as American festivals. I was taught to cherish my religious identity but also to appreciate diversity.
I later learned that the tradition of celebrating with a Christmas tree probably originated in Iran , more than a millennium before Christ, the sarv (cedar), a coniferous indigenous species was decorated and celebrated. The bent sarv tree is a common art design in many Persian paintings and artistic works. Many references indicate that the forces of nature were highly honored in ancient Iran and the tree was considered to be sacred. Islamic teachings actually came later to fortify those beliefs and to further elaborate on nature protection and wise use.
Today, I read in our local papers that the Armenian Christians in Iran, who celebrate Christmas with their exquisite ceremonies, have announced that they will use artificial trees this year as a sign of respect for nature and the environment. In reply I wish to tell them, thanks for protecting our fragile environment and Merry Christmas !