SIGNS AND SYMBOLS
THE CHRISTMAS SEASON
Christmas is celebrated all over the world with great fervor marking the birth of Jesus Christ. The traditions differ in different parts of the world, but there are some common symbols which are closely associated with this festival.
Although we are familiar with most of these symbols, few of us actually know the significance and symbolism behind them. There are various activities that are carried out during the Christmas celebrations like preparing mouth-watering sweets, sending greetings to near and dear ones (handmade greeting add a personal touch though), spreading the good news caroling, packing and presenting gifts to kids, decorating the house and Christmas tree, reuniting and feasting with family/relatives to celebrate the birth of Christ, and much more.
Christmas Tree – The meaning of the Christmas tree can be interpreted in many ways. The most popular beliefs are that the needles of the tree point towards heaven symbolizing man’s connection with the Lord, and since it is an evergreen tree it signifies abundant life throughout the year.
Christmas Bells – Christmas bells are believed to announce the arrival of baby Jesus and mark the beginning of the holiday season. The tinkling sound of bells guide the lost sheep back to the fold, just like the Lord would guide us to walk in His ways.
Christmas Star – The Christmas star, also known as the Star of Bethlehem revealed the birth of Jesus to the three wise men and also guided them to Bethlehem. It is also used as a popular Christmas decoration.
Angels – In Greek, the word ‘angel’ means ‘messenger’. According to the popular belief, the angels had an important role to play in Christmas, as they brought the news of the birth of Christ child to the shepherds.
Christmas Candles – The candle is used as a popular Christmas decoration which is said to bring light and warmth in the cold winters. Some also believe that it is customary to light a candle to represent the star of Bethlehem.
Christmas Wreaths – Just like the Christmas wreath does not have an end, it symbolizes the eternal love of the Lord. Christmas wreaths are an indispensable part of Christmas decorations. You could always purchase one from the market, but there is a different feel to the ones that you make at home. If you have the time, use your creative skills and come up with some unique wreath ideas.
Santa Claus – St. Nicholas, popularly known as Santa Claus, is a legendary figure who brings gifts for children at Christmas Eve. It is believed that he lives in the North Pole where he makes the gifts assisted by a group of elves.
Reindeer and Sleigh – “Rudolf the Red nose reindeer” – Isn’t that the first thing that comes to your mind when we think of Santa and his reindeer? Reindeer are Santa’s chosen animals to pull his royal sleigh on which he makes his journey from the North Pole and brings lots of gifts for little children. The story has it that, there are totally nine reindeer pulling the sleigh, Rudolph being their leader guiding them through foggy nights.
Snowman – The snowman is a figure carved out of snow used as a popular decoration and has become an icon of Christmas in recent times. Building a snowman could be a fun-filled activity for you and your family. So, those who live in cold countries with abundant snowfall must try building one this winter.
Poinsettia – Poinsettias are popular Christmas decorations having deep red colored, star shaped leaves. Due to its shape, it is commonly associated with the star of Bethlehem. It was brought to the United States by Dr. John Poinsett, United States Ambassador to Mexico. Legend has it that a few poor children from Mexico wanted to give Jesus a gift. As they could not find any other gift, they picked up some weeds and presented it to Him. Miraculously, the bright red poinsettias bloomed out of these weeds and thus the poinsettias became an integral part of the Christmas tradition
Mistletoe – The Mistletoe is a parasitic plant believed to have life giving properties and considered as an aphrodisiac. It is also believed to provide protection against poison and evil spirits. There are also some interesting traditions about kissing under the Mistletoe. During Christmas time, a young lady standing under the Mistletoe cannot refuse to be kissed. If a couple in love kisses under the Mistletoe, it is considered as a promise to marry and a long life filled with happiness.
Holly – The holly is believed to symbolize the crown of thorns worn by Christ during crucifixion. It is a religious symbol and is used as an offering to God. It is normally used along with the wreaths and mistletoe as a decoration during Christmas.
Manger – The Manger is popular Christian Christmas symbol depicting the birth scene of the Lord. Hay, grass, figurines of baby Jesus, Mother Mary, Joseph, angels, animals, and the Three Wise Men are used to recreate the scene of Christ’s birth.
Christmas Colors – Red and green are the two main Christmas colors. The blood shed by Jesus Christ during his crucifixion is symbolized by the color red while green symbolizes the eternal life of Christ.
Snowflakes – Snowflakes are Christmas ornaments widely used in decorations and are symbolic of the cold winter season. You can add a personal touch to your Christmas decorations by making some snowflakes at home. They add a unique charm and glamor to the overall decorations.
Christmas Carols– Christmas carols are basically Christmas songs based on the Christmas theme. Carol singing is an old custom wherein people sing carols during the period before Christmas. It is a tradition loved by all and the best way to spread the Christmas spirit.
Christmas Stockings – Christmas stockings are empty socks hung by children in hope that Santa will fill it with gifts and goodies. There is a popular legend associated with this custom of hanging stockings. Supposedly one Christmas Eve Santa came across a poor family and wanted to help them out. He wanted to remain anonymous and so he dropped in a few gold coins from the chimney. The coins fell into the stockings that were hanging there to dry.
Christmas Cards and Gifts – Christmas cards and gifts are the best way to wish your loved ones. The first Christmas gifts were given by the Three Wise Men to baby Jesus, thus giving rise to the custom of exchanging gifts.
Christmas Candy Cane – They are cane shaped sticks which are traditionally striped in red and white colors. It is believed to symbolize the shepherd’s hook used to bring the lambs back to their fold. In modern times, people believe that is represents an inverted “J” of Jesus Christ.
Christmas Cookies – Christmas is incomplete without the Christmas cookies as they add sweetness to the overall celebrations. The mouth-watering cookies are carved into various shapes related to Christmas. They are also popular Christmas gifts
Wassail – Originating from the old English words “waes hael” which means “be-well” the wassail is a traditional drink toasted as symbol of best wishes and good health
Icicles – Baby Jesus had taken shelter under a pine tree. When the tree realized that it was giving shelter to the Lord, it let out tears of happiness which froze to form icicles. They are now used as a popular tree decoration during Christmas.
Christmas Seals – In 1904 a Danish postman called Einar Holboell introduced the custom of Christmas seals. More popular as Christmas stamps or Cinderella stamps, they are stickers or labels placed on the mail during the festive season, in order to raise funds for charity. Indeed a noble cause!