How can you talk about your χ-mas tree in Koine Greek? As is often the case, so as not to reinvent the τροχός, it’s good to see what Modern Greek uses for ‘Christmas tree.’ MGk uses τὸ ἔλατο. In fact, you can listen to the well known carol, ω έλατο, here. Lyrics are here.
Christmas trees are usually pine or fir trees (pines were actually called fir trees prior to the 19th century), so it’s not surprising that τὸ ἔλατο primarily refers to the fir tree (pine is ἡ πεύκη or τὸ πεύκο, which is also ancient). The German ‘Tannenbaum’ also refers to the fir tree.
What were fir trees called in Ancient Greek? Here we are not far at all from Modern, as we have the following:
- ἐλάτη [ᾰ], ἡ, silver fir, Abies cephalonica, ὑψηλή Il.5.560; περιμή κετος 14.287; οὐρανομήκης Od.5.239, cf. Thphr.HP3.9.6, etc.; also, Abies pectinata, ib.5.8.3.
- ἐλάτινος [ᾰ], η, ον, also ος, ον Anaxil.22.17: Ep. εἰλάτινος, η, ον, as also E.Hel.1461 (lyr.), Hec.632 (lyr.):—of the fir, ὄζοι εἰ. Il.14.289, cf. E.Ba.1070; ὕλα εἰ. Id.Hec.632; [ῥητίνη] Thphr.HP9.2.2; ξύλα SIG135.11 (Olynthus, iv B.C.).2. made of fir or pine-wood, ἱστὸς εἰ. Od.2.424; πλάται E.Hel.1461, cf. Anaxil.l.c.
In conclusion, then, were a 1st-century Alexandrian transported to the 21st century, he would likely call our modern Christmas trees ἐλάται or, were he periphrastically inclined and cognizant of the holiday’s significance, τὰ δένδρα τῆς ἑορτῆς τῆς Χριστουγεννήσεως.