Friday, December 19, 2008

Okay, so you have been celebrating the holiday season for nearly a month now, and Im sure you have recognized all of the familiar sights and sounds of the holidays. There are so many symbols that we see year after year, rarely thinking of how those symbols came to be a part of our Christmas celebrations. Believe it or not, most symbols that are commonly recognized to be affiliated with Christmas, can be traced back to Christian meanings, with each one helping us to remember the reason for the season.

Bells: Bells are used to announce the birth of Jesus. The bells called the people to worship him. The bells were rung to guide lost sheep back to the fold. They signify that all people are precious in the eyes of the Lord.

Candles: The candles are a reminder of how to be a light unto the world. Candles are also a symbol reflecting our thanks to the star of Bethlehem. Candles may also represent the light of God.

Stars: The stars represent the stars of heaven and the star that the wise men followed to see Baby Jesus. The star also represents the hope of mankind.

Candy Canes: The candy cane is in the shape of the shepherd’s crook. The crook was used to help bring the sheep back that had strayed from the fold. The colors of red and white in a spiral symbolize that we are our brother’s keepers.

Stockings: Christmas stockings are believed to come from a legend in which a nobleman foolishly spent his fortune, which left his daughters without dowries. St. Nicholas heard of the girl’s position and went to their home. He threw pouches of gold coins down the chimney where they landed in the stockings that were during by the fireplace.

Santa Clause: Santa Clause began in the 4th Century when Saint Nicholas would spread good will amongst men. He was a generous man that was said to be devoted to children in particular. The legend of the man spread throughout Europe and in Holland his name was transformed into Sinterklass. The way that we see Santa Clause was developed from a poem composed by Clement C. Moore in 1822. He stands for good will on earth, kindness and generosity.

Earth: The symbol of Earth is often used to symbolize peace on earth.

Ribbons: Ribbons and gift bows represent that we will be tied together in the bonds of goodwill forever.

Tree: The Christmas tree is made from an evergreen that symbolizes God’s everlasting love. The lights on the tree represent the stars of heaven. The star on top of the tree represents the star of Bethlehem that the wise men followed to see Baby Jesus. The Christmas tree also represents everlasting life and light. The needles are said to point up towards heaven.

Wreath: The wreath represents God’s undying love for us. It has no beginning and no end.

Poinsettias: Poinsettias were used in the 17th century Christmas celebrations of Mexican Franciscans. The plant was named after the US Ambassador to Mexico, Joel R. Poinsett, when he brought the plant to the United States in 1828. A legend associated with the poinsettia says that a young Mexican boy realized that he had no gift for the Christ child at the Nativity scene. He gathered the green branches and spread the leaves in a star-shaped flour. The plant is actually not a flower, but the upper leaves are actually bright red leaves.

Red and Green Colors: The color red symbolizes the sacrifice of Jesus. Green is the perfect background for the red. Green represents youth, hope and nature. (Read Red and Green Colors?)

Angels: The angel is a symbol of good and evil spirits in religion.

Frankincense: Frankincense was a gift brought to Baby Jesus by the Magi. Frankincense was the purest incense and produced a white smoke, which was a symbol of prayers and praises to those ascending to heaven.

Madonna and Child: The Madonna and Child represents the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus.

Gifts: Gifts are an act of love symbolizing the act of love that God made when sending us Jesus. Gifts are to remind us that Jesus Christ was a gift to us from God.

Holly: The thorn of the holly represents the crown of thorns that Jesus wore. The berries symbolize the drops of blood that were shed from him wearing the crown. Holly was also used in Northern Europe to drive away evil spirits. It would be brought into their homes to brighten the mood and to refresh the air.

Mistletoe: Mistletoe was used by Druid priests before the birth of Christ in winter celebrations. The plant had no roots, yet it remained green through the winter. The Celtics also believed that mistletoe had healing powers and used it as an antidote for infertility and to ward off evil spirits. They also believed that it was a symbol of peace. The Scandinavians believed the plant was associated with the goddess of love. They believed that those who kissed under the mistletoe would have a promise of luck an happiness in the new year.

Christmas Cards: Christmas cards originated in England and were created by boys practicing their writing skills. They would make cards for their parents with Christmas greetings. The first real Christmas card is credited to Sir Henry Cole in 1843. He was the director of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. He commissioned an artist named John Calcott to draw an illustration that would be used on the card. The card had three panels. The center panel had a family enjoying Christmas festivities and the message said, “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You.” The cards were sent because he was too busy to send individualized messages to his friends.

Xmas: Many people believe that the term “Xmas” is disrespectful. However, the Greek word fro Christ is Xristos. The letter “X” was used as a religious symbol in Greece. Europeans have used Xmas as an abbreviation for Christmas since the 16th century. So even if people try, they cant ever really take Christ out of Christmas!


Pretty interesting huh?! Merry Christmas!

(info taken from Christmas Symbols)

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4 comments:

Joyful said...

Very interesting...and good to share with the entire family too!

Have a great day. We're expecting a winter wonderland here! The weatherman reported last night that we'll have more snow over the next 3 days than we usually receive for the entire month of December! We have my side of the family coming for Christmas dinner tomorrow - I trust all will be able to attend. We do live fairly close.

Have a great day!
Love & prayers,
Joy

Anonymous said...

May I just share my heart with you all? Last night I was answering some questions in a journal just for fun. The answer to this question led to all sorts of thoughts. I encourage you to read Luke 1 & 2. The question, what is your favorite Christmas song & why? My answer, Mary, Did you Know? I thought of a young girl being pregnant and unmarried, having never been with a man. Did she wonder how, if this was really possible? After all she was human. Surely she could see her belly grow larger and larger as the child grew inside of her. How did he really get there? Yes she had the experience with the Holy Ghost coming upon her but wouldn’t she still stand in awe? When the time came to deliver this child she must have been amazed at his conception and his birth. I can imagine she held her infant in her arms just like any other mother. She must have counted every finger and every toe. She had to look at him through her tears and think about what a miracle he was. All mothers do those things. This child was the Son of Almighty God, no man had fathered him or participated in his conception, He was spiritually placed in her womb in a supernatural way. While every child is special to his mother did she consider him an exception? Probably in the beginning but as he begin to grow as all children do was he a typical infant, toddler, child or teenager? What happened as years passed and she married Joseph and they had more children together? Was Jesus special or above his siblings or was he just one of the group of Mary and Joseph’s kids? I have never read about sibling rivalry in that family such as the case with Jacob’s son because he favored Joseph. What did Mary think when she looked at her son? What do you think when you look at yours? Are the thoughts similar among women, among mothers? It seems she thought of him just as her other sons in the story where they find him in temple at age 12. I don’t get the impression that she expected he was about his father’s business. It sounds to me that she considered him a typical 12 year old boy who had wondered off from the group and scared her. Did she truly realize how exceptional he was? Could her human mind even comprehend? Obviously when he became a man and performed miracles in the land Mary knew he was different. Surely those events brought back to her remembrance his immaculate conception, her visit from Gabriel the angel and the moment the Holy Ghost came upon her. Surely she thought of prophesy spoken being fulfilled as she watched her son Jesus first hand. She must have known the will of God. Just put yourself in her place, think about it, they arrested her innocent child. They proceeded to beat him, to torture him then to crucify him. What mother wouldn’t stand up and fight screaming to the top of her lungs, “take me, beat me, torture me, crucify me but let my baby go!” I can’t even imagine being in Mary’s position. How precious infants are, how we sit all night and just look at them sleeping. The way we reach out in the first several weeks to touch them and make sure they are breathing. We can’t wait in the beginning for them to utter the slightest sound so we can pick them up and hold them in our arms. Sometimes we just hold them for no reason, staring at the wonder of it all. Her wonder must have been magnified a million times that of the average mother. Oh, Mary, did you know what you were holding, the impact of the Son you raised until you watched Him die and saw Him raise again? Did you see the possibility of forgiveness and redemption in his young face? During this Christmas season may we focus on that precious Christ child and the miracle he gave to everyone of us? Because of him, his birth, his life, his resurrection we can be free from sin, understood in trial and adversity and over comers by the Blood of the Holy Lamb that was slain. Never forget all Jesus endured and celebrate His life and the life He gave to all.
Merry Christmas!

Christ’s birth is what we are celebrating
His story is by far the most fascinating
Righteous living was the example He left
Inspiring Christians to do their very best
Sacrificing His life that we could live
Taking upon Himself our every sin
Meeting us whenever we feel ready to give up
And filling us to overflowing with His precious love
Seasons will come and go, but His story is forever told.

Toni Tate said...

I found four websites that have lots of unique Christmas invitations cards, personalized Christmas party invitations, Free Christmas invitations party and custom Christmas invitations at:

http://www.cardsshoppe.com/holiday-invitations/christmas-invitations-cards.htm
http://www.express-invitations.com/holiday-invitations/christmas-invitations.php
http://www.invitations-shoppe.com/christmas-party-invitations-cards-9-1.htm
http://www.holiday-invitations.com/christmas-holiday-party-invitations-cards-21.htm

I have ordered from all four for different Christmas occasions and been very pleased. Take and look and see what you think.

Melissa said...

Yes, very interesting. I had seen some of those, but not all of them. I love the way we can take all of our Christmas symbols and make them about Jesus. I'm going to share your post with my kids.

Tracie, I love you! Have a great Christmas.

Love,
Melissa