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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas Symbols



Christmas Symbols

Christmas Day is celebrated on December 25th of each year. It is the day Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. The word "Christmas" means "Christ's Mass" - derived from the English term "Christes masse". There are many different customs and traditions around the world. American customs come from many places. Santa Claus has a Dutch origin. He was developed from St. Nicholas who was a real person. St. Nicholas, was the patron saint of school boys. He brought gifts to the children. The idea that Santa Claus comes down the chimney originated in Norway, where children hang Christmas stockings on the fireplace mantel. Christmas trees have pagan origins. When pagans became Christian, they used evergreens (a sacred tree) for the holiday by decorating them with nuts and candles. They sang Christmas carols as they danced around the Christmas tree.

Christmas colors are red and green. Today, traditional Christmas activities include caroling, making and giving gifts, sending cards to family and friends, and enjoying festive dinners and parties. Below are symbols of Christmas and their significance.

Advent Wreath
Four candles placed on a wreath. One candle is lit each Sunday before Christmas in anticipation of Christ's birthday.
Angel
An angel told the shepherds of the birth of Jesus. Angels come in many forms for Christmas decorations including the tree topper.
Bells
Church bells rang to announce the birth of Jesus. They still ring today.
Camels
Camels are the animals the wisemen rode following the star to where Jesus was born.
Candles
Candles represent the light that Jesus brought to earth. Pagans who converted to Christianity used candles on the sacred evergreen tree.
Christmas Cards
For many years, private notes of good tidings were sent at Christmas time. In 1843, Sir Henry Cole had 1000 special designed cards printed. The custom of sending Christmas cards began.
Christmas Caroling
Caroling is a medieval custom of singing and dancing around a Christmas tree. Early carols weren't holy enough for singing inside a church, so caroling was done outside.
Christmas Cookies
Originated with pre-Christian Romans who gave sweet cakes to their senators.
Christmas Seals
A Danish postal clerk sold Christmas stamps (Christmas seals) to show that users had given to a worthy cause.
Christmas Stocking
There is a legend associated with the origin of Christmas stockings. St. Nick, 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.
Christmas Tree Lights
The lights represent Christ as being the "Light of the World." Lights also represent stars. Candles were first used as lights on the Christmas tree.
Creche
A manger scene representing the Jesus' place of birth.
Donkeys, Lambs, and Cows
Donkeys, lambs, and cows were animals close to Jesus at the time of his birth. They are usually part of the Creche.
Evergreen Tree
The evergreen tree was decorated by the pagans at the feast of the winter solstice. The evergreen tree was a sign that winter would end.
Gifts
The first Christmas gifts were given by the Wisemen to Baby Jesus.
Holly
Holly is a shrub with spiny leaves and red berries. The leaves remain green throughout the year. Pagans thought its greenness was a promise that the sun would return. Early French and English families hung holly over their doors to symbolize a home in which Christ's birth is celebrated.
Icicles
Icicles are sometimes used as a tree decoration. As per an old story, the Christ child took shelter for a night under a pine tree. When the tree realized that it was caring for Jesus, tears of happiness fell from its branches. The tears froze into icicles.
Jesus
Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Christians believe Jesus is the son of God.
Joseph
Joseph is the husband of Mary.
Manger
A cow's manger is the place where Baby Jesus slept. It is part of the Creche.
Mary
Mary is the mother of Jesus.
Mince Meat Pie
Mince meat pie is full of spices and fruits. It represents the exotic treasures of the East that the Wisemen brought to Jesus.
Mistletoe
A sprig of evergreen plant hung at Christmas time. Custom is that people can kiss each other standing under it.
Plum Pudding
Plum pudding originated by an English king that was stranded in a blizzard one Christmas Eve. He used what he could find to make a special holiday dish.
Poinsettia
This flower was brought to the U.S. by Dr, J.R. Poinsett in 1825. He was the first first United States ambassador to Mexico. Because of its flame leaf, the <\ poinsettia is sometimes called the Christmas Star. A Mexican legend explains how this flower got associated with Christmas.
Reindeer
Reindeer were the animals chosen by St. Nicholas to pull his sleigh. His reindeers' names are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer is the most famous.
Saint Nicholas
Saint Nicholas was a real person. He was a kind bishop who brought presents to children and needy people.
Shepherds
Shepherds tend sheep. They came to the manger to honor Baby Jesus.
Star
The Star of Bethlehem guided the Three Wisemen to Baby Jesus.
Tinsel
There is a legend associated with this thin metalic foil strip decoration. It tells about parents who trimmed a tree while their children were sleeping. Spiders came to see the tree, leaving cobwebs all over it. The Christ Child came to bless the tree and turned the cobwebs to silver.
Three Wisemen
Three Kings travelled far to see Jesus. They brought their best treasures for gifts.
Wassail
A wassail is a salutation of good health or well wishes by means of a toast. The drink is a mixture of mulled eggs, curdled cream, apples, nuts, and spices. Usually poured from a punch bowl while exchanging Christmas greeings.
Yule Log
The word "yule" means "wheel," a symbol representing the sun. Before Jesus was born, pagans thought the sun stood still for 12 days at the end of the year. A log was cut large enough to burn for this time period to burn away last year's evil.


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