Poinsettia as wedding flowers? Christmas tree and mistletoe as reception décor? Bells, candy canes as wedding favors? Read on and learn the meaning, importance of these Christmas symbols.
Bells – Early pagan winter celebration rung bells to drive out evil spirits. This was adopted on
Christmas eve to welcome in the spirit of Christmas with joyful noise.
Candy Canes – Candy canes were first made by an 18th century English candy maker who decided to make a candy commemorating Christmas.
Candles – Lighting of candles is symbolic of the birth of Jesus, the Light of the World.
Cards – The first commercial Christmas cards were produced in 1846 by John C. Horsley. The first Christmas Card shows a family celebrating a Christmas dinner and charitable acts of feeding and clothing the poor, with the message “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You.”
Carols – The word came from a Greek term for “a dance accompanied by flute music.”
Gift Giving –- An early Roman festival, gifts were given as good luck emblems. This tradition was reinforced by the Three King’s giving of gifts to the newly-born Savior.
Mistletoe – Also known as the golden bough, it was held sacred by both the Celtic Druids and the Norseman.
Around New Year, ancient Celtic Druids would gather mistletoe from their holy oak tree, divide the branches into many sprigs and distribute them to the people, who hung them over doorways as protection against bad weather elements and evil.
Although many sources say that kissing under the mistletoe is a purely English custom, another explanation for its origin extends back into Norse mythology:
Frigga, the goddess of love and beauty, loves her son Balder so much that she tried to make sure no harm will come to him. However, an evil spirit made an arrow from a mistletoe, and struck it to Balder’s head, causing him to die.
Frigga’s tears on his death transformed into mistletoe’s white berries and brought Balder back to life. Because of this, the joyous goddess reversed the character of the mistletoe–making it an emblem of love and promising to bestow a kiss upon anyone who passes under it.
Holly – Earlier called as “Holy Tree, ” the pointed green leaves reminded people of Jesus’ crown of thorns and its red berries of His drops of blood at the crucifixion.
Poinsettia – Legend has it that a small boy was sad one Christmas Eve because he had nothing to give to the Child Jesus Christ. While the boy was praying, a beautiful read and green flower sprang up, thus called, the “Flower of the Holy Night.”
Later, the plant’s name was changed to poinsettia, after the American ambassador to Mexico, J. R. Poinsett, who sent some plants to his home in South Carolina.
Santa Claus, St. Nicholas – St. Nicholas, born in AD280 in Asia Minor and became bishop of Myna, was said to be born in a wealthy family and gave all his inheritance to the poor.
He was noted for begging money for the poor and also disguising himself from being recognized as a bishop.
Christmas Tree – Early legend has it that St. Boniface, in an effort to stop an evil act by the German pagans, axed a sacred tree. At the foot of the tree sprung a tiny evergreen. He explained to the pagans that Christ is like the evergreen, bringer of life, thus starting a revival of Christian belief.
The first writings about Christmas trees were found in the diaries of a man from Strasbourg (Germany) 1605. The diaries documented that during Christmas time, the local people set up and decorate fir trees in the parlors.
Charles Dickens, a British author, described a Christmas tree in the 1850’s as being “laden with dolls, miniature furniture, tiny musical instruments, costume jewelry, toy guns and swords, fruit and candy.”
Twelve Days of Christmas – The Western churches’ date for Jesus’ birth was Dec. 25th, the Eastern churches’ date was Jan. 6th. In the late 4th century, they adopted one another’s dates, thus, Christmas now started with Dec. 25th and ended with Jan. 6th, giving us 12 days of Christmas.
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