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Home UK Christmas World Archive The Meaning Behind Christmas Decorations

The Meaning Behind Christmas Decorations

Christmas decorations come in all shapes and sizes but have you ever wondered about the meaning behind them? How Christmas decorations actually came to be used?

Religious symbolism

The Christian origins of some decorations aren’t always clear and over the years some meanings have been lost as fashions come and go but here are the fundamental points.

Candles and lights- A standard religious symbol for Jesus as the Light in our lives, guiding the way through darkness and sin, showing the way we should live our lives.

white and grey burning candles

Holly- A prickly reminder of the crown of thorns worn by Jesus on the cross, the berries hint at the blood he shed.

Stars- A more obvious one, the star as a symbol harks back to the Star that led the wise men to the birthplace of Christ.

Wreaths- The familiar circular shape of the wreath is a sign of the eternal nature of God.

Red and Green- The traditional colours of Christmas have a deeper meaning, red for the blood of Christ, green for the evergreen foliage in winter that presents hope in a time of despair.

The Christmas Tree- Legend tells that there was a Catholic Archbishop in the 8th century who cut down an oak tree in Geismar, Germany dedicated to the pagan god Thor, instead directing attention to a little fir tree nearby. He stated “This humble tree’s wood is used to build your homes, let Christ be at the centre of your households. Its leaves remain evergreen in the darkest days, let Christ be your constant light. Its branches reach out to embrace and its top points to heaven, let Christ be your Comfort and Guide.”

christmas tree with gold decorations

Candy Canes- This children’s favourite treat is based on the shape of the shepherds crook, designed to remind that Christ is the Good Shepherd.

Non-religious symbolism

Bows- A symbol of togetherness, showing we should all be together at this time of year.

Mistletoe- A symbol for fertility, thought to originate from a pagan practise. Kissing under the mistletoe is a tradition which has developed over the years.

Christmas Stocking- There is a legend associated with the origin of Christmas stockings, it states Saint Nicholas, who wanted to remain anonymous and help a poor family, threw gold coins down their chimney. They fell into a stocking that was hanging there to dry and so began the tradition of hanging a stocking on the mantelpiece.

These symbolisms are part of the Christmas we celebrate nowadays and show how it is an amalgamation of many different traditions, not just Christian, though many were taken on by Christianity and adapted to suit their beliefs. Different countries introduced each other to new practices and so Christmas developed into the wonderful holiday we love and celebrate.

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