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I originally asked this on Christianity.SE and later it was moved to Mythology.SE, but it remains unanswered.

It is actually very easy to find a citation for the quotation's source, the problem is that the commonly published attribution is wrong.


Searching for "evergreen tree which sprang out of a dead tree stump" gets nearly 3000 hits.

The Seed of the Woman and the Power of Darkness - Donbor Syiemlieh - Google Books provides an example:

"An old Babylonish fable told of an evergreen tree which sprang out of a dead tree stump. The old stump symbolized the dead Nimrod, the new evergreen tree symbolized that Nimrod had come to life again in Tammuz! Among the Druids the oak was sacred, among the Egyptians it was the palm, and in Rome it was the fir, which was decorated with red berries during the Saturnalia!" (Walsh, Curiosities of Popular Customs, p. 242).

Obviously I didn't check all results, but those that I did check contain that same quotation, and almost all give the same attribution.

The problem is, while page 242 of that book does talk about Christmas trees, and the writing style is similar, it doesn't include the above quotation or anything like it:

Image of page 242

The quotation doesn't appear elsewhere in that section or anywhere else in the book.

So what is its origin?

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The direct quotation does not originate with Walsh, and those who attribute the quotation to Walsh are misattributing and/or misquoting.

The direct quotation originates with Ralph Woodrow, who paraphrases and cites, but does not quote, Walsh. On page 152 in chapter 20 of Woodrow's Babylon Mystery Religion, Woodrow writes (unquoted, so his own words):

The Christmas tree, as we know it, only dates back a few centuries, though ideas about sacred trees are very ancient. An old Babylonish fable told of an evergreen tree which sprang out of a dead tree stump. The old stump symbolized the dead Nimrod, the new evergreen tree symbolized that Nimrod had come to life again in Tammuz! Among the Druids the oak was sacred, among the Egyptians it was the palm, and in Rome it was the fir, which was decorated with red berries during the Saturnalia!10 The Scandinavian god Odin was believed to bestow special gifts at yultide to those who approacehd [sic] his sacred fir tree.11

The footnotes for chapter 20 are on page 171:

  1. Walsh, Curiosities of Popular Customs, p. 242.
  2. Urlin, Festivals, Holy Days, and Saints' Days, p. 222.

The idea came from Walsh, but the words are Woodrow's, so people who are using these exact words and attributing them to Walsh are citing incorrectly.

Woodrow, R. (1966). Babylon mystery religion: ancient and modern. Ralph Woodrow Evangelistic Association, Inc.

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  • Amazing. How did you find it so quickly? ¶ I wonder who made the first misattribution that everyone else blindly copied without fact-checking. – Ray Butterworth Dec 13 '20 at 21:36
  • 1
    My go-to for historical book searching is archive.org, not books.google.com. – shoover Dec 14 '20 at 1:36

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