This collection brings together two of Henry van Dyke's best-loved tales about the Christmas tradition in a single edition.
The First Christmas Tree is set in the 8th century, and tells of the establishment of the tree tradition during the festive season. A Benedictine monk named Winfrid and his associates begin the tradition following the destruction of a oak tree associated with the pagan God Thor. Winfrid would go on to be known as Saint Boniface, and was credited with beginning the tradition of decorating a tree at Christmas time.
The Story of the Other Wise Man focuses upon Arteban, a member of the Priesthood of the Magi who is destined to join the other three wise men as they journey to visit the newborn baby Jesus. Their journey, which commences as they sight a shining star in the sky, is dramatized in a moving narrative which traces their voyage to Bethlehem.
Henry van Dyke was a voracious reader and a clergyman; as such, both of these stories have a profound basis in the written records of the monk Winfrid and the order of the Magi. Although undoubtedly crafting works of fiction, van Dyke was careful to imbue his stories with elements of existing lore. These sources do much to enrich the narrative, and by extension their celebration of Christmas as a Christian tradition.