Christmas Symbols and Their Meanings
Every year we see the same things that we automatically associate with Christmas and festivities, and a lot of the time we may get wrapped up in the other events of Christmas such as presents, Santa, decorations and Christmas dinner, but we may often forget the true meaning of Christmas. So, ever wondered what these Christmas symbols mean? Symbols like stars, angels, presents and Christmas trees, we want to share with you in this blog the meanings behind them. You may look at things a little different this Christmas!
They are in the shape of a circle, with no beginning or end, an unending circle of life. They are generally made from evergreens with berries, pine cones, fir and holly, giving the meaning of everlasting life as evergreens do not die in the winter. Holly branches also have thorns which represent the crown of thorns Jesus wore when he was crucified, and the bright red berries, the blood he shed for his people.
Christmas stars are often placed on the top of your Christmas tree. They represent the star of Bethlehem that the 3 wise men followed to help them find baby Jesus. The Star only appears in the nativity story of the Gospel of Matthew, where astrologers (the wise men) from the east were inspired by the star to travel to Jerusalem.
Angels that you may place on the top of your Christmas tree come from Gabriel, the archangel of revelation who told Mary she would be the mother of Jesus on Earth. This angel also visited Joseph in a dream to inform him he would be the father of Jesus Christ. A large amount of angels also gathered in the sky over Bethlehem to announce to the world about Jesus’ birth and that he would be their saviour. The image below shows an angel speaking to shepherds.
Christmas trees are made of evergreen firs which represent an everlasting life. In ancient times they were placed in Roman homes to let them look forward to the spring that will follow the winter. Christians see the trees as an everlasting life with god. Another theory is that a monk brought over a Christmas tree to Germany to decorate. He said due to its triangular shape it represented the Holy Trinity – God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The tradition was quickly taken up by the Germans who started to decorate them with candles. Pagans believed that you must take down your Christmas tree on or before January 5th, otherwise the tree-spirits would turn bad. Many people still believe it is bad luck to keep your tree up after this date!
Baubles and Tree Ornaments:
The ancient tradition for decorating Christmas trees was that various offering including apples were placed on them. The use of apples was lost in 1858 after a harsh winter destroyed them all. A glassblower had the idea to replace the apples with colourful blown glass balls, the baubles we know today! Other popular modern day decorations include:
Bells – Represents the use of them to locate the lost sheep into the fold.
Candles – Represent Jesus as a Divine Light.
Gift Bow – Represents commitment of Christians, bound with everlasting goodwill.
There are a few theories as to where candy canes originated. Some say they represent the Good Shepherd’s crook who brought back the lost sheep. Others say the colours of the candy cane hold the true meaning – white for the purity of Jesus and his virgin birth, and red for God’s love, or the blood that was shed at the hands of Roman soldiers. It is also said that a choirmaster in 1670 was worried about the children not sitting quietly during the nativity so he gave them all something to eat to keep them quiet!
Giving presents at Christmas time is to remind us of the gifts the Wise Men brought for baby Jesus - gold, frankincense and myrrh. It can also be seen as a big present that God gave to the world – Jesus!
This is the famous end to a British Christmas Dinner! But it was never always the same as we know today. It originated in the 14th century when it was called ‘frumenty’. It was made with beef, mutton, raisins, currants, prunes, spices and wine, and it would have more of the appearance of soup not pudding. In 1595 it was thickened with eggs, dried fruit and breadcrumbs and began to take more of a shape of pudding as we know it.
There have been many superstitions to do with Christmas pudding such as them having to include 13 ingredients, to represent Jesus and his Disciples, another is that each member of the family should take turns in stirring the pudding from east to west to honour the Wise Men. Putting a sixpence inside the pudding is another age-old tradition thought to bring good luck to whoever finds it.