Christmas is celebrated on December 25 every year by Christians around the world. Christmas was first started in the fourth century. No one knew what day Jesus had been born so they decided to celebrate during current festivals being held at the time. The church hoped that they could absorb some of the Pagan holidays such as Yule and Saturnalia into their Christmas holiday. Nowadays Christmas is celebrated all over the world. There are many symbols of Christmas, some of which were developed from even older symbols
Christmas Tree Symbol
Symbol of Christ, immortality
The Christmas tree was supposedly thought of by Martin Luther. He saw an evergreen and wanted to bring the beauty of nature into his home. Thus was the first Christmas tree. However, having evergreen trees and boughs in the home dates back much earlier. Pagans had trees in their homes to symbolize life and light during the shortest days of the year. In Germany, people were putting candles on their trees to symbolize the light coming back into the world. These candles have morphed into modern-day Christmas lights that adorn many trees at Christmastime.
The Christmas tree symbolizes the day that Christ was born and the needles symbolize the crown he wore when he was crucified. The tree itself is a symbol of immortality.
Because the Christmas tree was thought to have its roots in Paganism many Americans did not have one in their house until the late 1800s. Early German settlers had them displayed before that in the 1700s. In modern times Christmas trees can be found in houses around the world.
Symbol of purity, innocence, Star of David, crucifixion
Poinsettia plants are found in houses and churches around Christmas time. Poinsettias are colored red and green and have a star shape. Poinsettia plants are native to Mexico and symbolized purity to the Aztecs.
Before the poinsettia plant was used by Christians it was a powerful Aztec symbol. The follower was considered pure and it was used in medicines and religious ceremonies. After the Christians conquered Mexico, the Catholic church started using the flower in its Christmas processions.
A popular story in Mexico has a boy and girl trying to find something for the baby Jesus. They found some red leaves and placed them at the nativity scene. As people laughed at their meager gift the leaves turned into brilliant star-shaped plants and the poinsettia was created. It is a symbol of innocence. The poinsettia plant did not come into the United States until the early 1800s.
The star pattern of the leaves is believed to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem while the red color symbolizes the crucifixion.
In modern times the poinsettia plant is given as gifts during Christmas and it symbolizes friendship. The plants can be found all around the United States during the Christmas season.
Symbol of love, connection, devotion.
Gifts are given at Christmas time. Between family and friends; and workers and their bosses. Christmas is a time for giving gifts. This was thought to have started back when the Wise Men first gave the baby Jesus their gifts. However, gift-giving during this time predates Christianity. Gifts were given in Ancient Rome during Saturnalia.
It was not until the early 19th century that gifts were given on Christmas day. Before that, they were given on New Year’s eve or on Dec. 6th around St. Nicholas Day. In modern times people give presents on Christmas day and sometimes earlier.
Gifts today symbolize love and connection. They are also symbols of devotion.
Christmas Star Symbol
Symbol of hope, miracles, goodness, new beginnings, knowledge, divine guidance, protection.
Star symbols have been around since ancient times. Sailors navigated by the stars. Ancient Greeks believed the stars immortalized the gods and deeds that they performed. Nighttime deities were known as star gods. The Lakota people had a star god named Anpao wichapi who symbolizes new beginnings and knowledge.
The Christmas star is a symbol of hope. It was seen by the Three Wise Men that found the baby Jesus. The Christmas star named by the Wise Men as the Star of Bethlehem had led them to where Jesus was born. The Christmas star also symbolizes the miracle of Christ’s birth. Christ’s light shines like a star to help good conquer evil. The star also represents divine guidance and protection.
In modern times stars are found on top of Christmas trees and as decorations.
Symbol of light, Christ, enlightenment.
Candles are a symbol of light. They are lit to chase away the darkness and as a reminder of Spring and lightness. Candles were used during Yule to celebrate light. Candles are also used during the Jewish Festival of Light, Hanukkah. Eight candles are lit, one for each night of the festival.
In earlier times Christmas trees had candles on them for decoration and to represent the light of Christ.
At Christmastime, candles are often lit. The advent candle wreath is lit for a month before Christmas. There are five candles in the wreath. The first four represent the weeks leading up to Christmas and the fifth represents the birth of Christ. Candles are also used while caroling to symbolize the light.
In modern times, Christmas candles are popular decorations. Advent wreaths are still used and candles still represent bringing light into the darkness and enlightenment.
Santa Claus Symbol
Santa Claus as he is known in modern times was preceded by some other symbolic figures. In Ancient Greece, there was a bishop named Nicholas. He was known for giving gifts to the poor. His legend grew and he became a saint. He was known in Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, and other areas and was depicted as an old man with a hood. Gifts were given in his honor on December 6th during the Middle Ages.
In ancient times during Yule, the god Odin would bestow gifts upon his followers. He was depicted as a man in a cloak with a long beard riding a horse.
In the 16th century, Father Christmas was celebrated in England. He was the bearer of good cheer and would bring presents on Christmas day.
The modern Santa Claus is a mix of these old folk figures and others. Santa Claus gives presents on Christmas day and rides through the sky on a sled pulled by reindeers. Santa symbolizes gift-giving and charity along with cheer and togetherness.
Christmas Bell Symbol
Symbol of fertility, prosperity, health, birth, giving, joy.
Bells have been used in festivals since ancient times. They were used by ancient Egyptians while worshiping the god of fertility and the deceased, Osiris. Bells were also used to ward off evil spirits and bring health and prosperity to people. They were rung to chase the spirits from the crops in order and to promote fertility. In medieval times bells in churches would ring during certain special times. Bells were rung at Christmas time to honor the birth of Jesus.
In modern times bells are rung at Christmas while performing carols. They are visible all over during the season. The Salvation Army has bell ringers to coax people into making a donation to help those in need. Bells remind people of the joy of giving and the Christmas spirit.
Symbol of love, peace, the Holy Spirit, purity.
In pagan times, doves were a physical representation of the love one person had for another. They were the symbol of Aphrodite, goddess of love. Doves were also the symbol for the goddess Ishtar in ancient Mesopotamia. In the Old Testament of the Bible, the dove brought back the olive branch to Noah after he was in his ark for forty days. The dove symbolized the peace between God and man. In the New Testament, the dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit.
At Christmas time doves can be found as ornaments and decorations. They symbolize the love of the Holy Spirit, peace, and purity.
Christmas Stocking Symbol
Symbol of giving, charity.
At Christmastime, many people hang Christmas stockings from their mantles hoping they will be filled with goodies on Christmas day. In Italy, at the beginning of the century, the goddess Pasqua Epiphania was celebrated. She was also known as the Grandmother and she would leave presents in children’s stockings. Later she was replaced by Saint Nicholas. In the middle ages, Saint Nicholas was thought to have started the Christmas stocking tradition. An old man had three daughters but he was unable to come up with a dowry so they could be married. St. Nicholas heard about the old man’s predicament. On December 6, St. Nicholas day, St. Nicholas threw bags of coins into the old man’s window by the fireplace. The girls’ stockings were hung by the fireplace to dry and some of the coins dropped inside. Because of Saint Nicholas’ generosity, the girls were all able to get married. From then on it was tradition to hang stockings or socks by the fireplace so St. Nicholaus would leave small gifts inside.
The stockings were later filled by Santa Claus on Christmas day, December 25. People still hang their Christmas stockings by the fireplace or near a window. Christmas stockings are now made out of different materials. Sometimes people’s names are embroidered onto them and they are usually decorated with Christmas themes.
Symbol of fertility, danger, watchfulness, charity.
In Iceland, elves are known as Huldufolk and were around during ancient times. They were mentioned in tales told by the Old Norse and were a symbol of fertility. When Iceland was Christianized the story of the Huldufolk changed and they became the children of Adam and Eve. Eve thought her children were dirty so she hid them from God. God made them disappear and they only reappeared once in a while. These elves were said to be dangerous and children were warned about going near them. They were a symbol of danger. Elves evolved over time and were associated with Christmas by Scandinavian writers. They talked about a naughty and nice list and elves helping Santa with toys. In England in the 1800s, Christmas elves helped Santa make sugar plums, cakes, and toys for all the good children.
In modern times Elves are considered Santa’s helpers. They let him know who has been good or bad and help him make his list for toys. The Elf on a Shelf doll has become a popular theme in many households. This Elf watches over the household children and reports back to Santa about their behavior.