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Approximately half of the world’s population participates in some Christmas activities, making it one of the most celebrated festivals in the world. Because of the enchanting world of Christmas symbols, this festival is so beautiful that it attracts people across the globe.
In this article, we will unravel the traditions, myths, and stories that have shaped these symbols, adding a deeper layer of understanding to your holiday celebration. From the iconic Christmas tree to the festive mistletoe, we will discuss every Christmas symbol that adds value to this mesmerizing festival.
1. Introduction to Christmas
Indeed, Christmas is a festival that needs no introduction. It’s possible, though, that many people are unaware of the origins and history of this lovely festival.
Before discussing the symbols, let’s explore how this enchanting festival has come to life and what makes it one of the most celebrated festivals in the world.
1.1. Origin and History
The roots of Christmas stretch across centuries and diverse cultural landscapes. A period of merrymaking and feasting, the Roman festival of Saturnalia, took place around 17th to 23rd December, typically the celebration’s genesis, which is the trace of all these.
When Saturnalia happened, societal norms were temporarily upended, and gift-giving became a tradition or central custom. The Germanic people, mainly the Norse, contributed their winter solstice festivities, which were known as Type, marked by feasts that celebrated the return of the sun.
The Roman Empire’s Christian population saw that many people saw the 25th of December as the date to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. However, if you look at the historical evidence, there’s no pinpoint proof that Jesus Christ was born on this date.
It strategically aligned with existing pagan festivities while facilitating the Integration of Christmas into broader cultural practices.
1.2. Cultural Significance
Christmas is a festival that goes beyond religious boundaries and has typically evolved as a cultural phenomenon with global popularity. Families, friends, and communities come together during this time of unification.
The idea of gift-giving during Christmas reflects the Roman and Germanic influences on the festival, symbolizing generosity and sharing blessings. It is also the end of the year, and people are happier during that time and are looking forward to a great New Year.
Whatever your religion, you will appreciate the atmosphere of this celebration. The diverse celebrations around the world showcase the adaptability of Christmas.
2. 11 Popular Christmas Symbols and What They Mean
2.1. Christmas Tree
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the Christmas tree is the most famous Christmas symbol. It is deeply rooted in pagan traditions and symbolizes life, renewals, and the triumph of light over darkness.
If we look back to ancient times, evergreen trees represented eternal life during winter festivities. This tradition gained popularity in the 16th century in Germany, where decorated trees adorned with candles became a festive centerpiece.
Christmas trees go beyond their historical roots as they also embody familial unity across the globe. Decorating it with ornaments and lights serves as a sense of togetherness.
2.2. Santa Claus
We all waited for Santa Claus in our childhood, thinking he would leave gifts for us. We used to get gifts in the morning, kept under the tree by our parents, who pretended they were from Santa Claus. I’m sure this story is relatable to everyone reading this.
However, Santa Claus is a cultural amalgamation of historical figures and folklore, the spirit of giving and joy. The inspiration behind this modern portrayal is Saint Nicholas, a bishop known for his acts of kindness in the 4th century.
It was the 19th century when the iconic red-suited, jolly Santa was popularized through American Literature and illustrations. Hence, now Santa symbolizes generosity, embodying the joy of giving during the festive season.
Mistletoe, with its lush green leaves and white barriers, has been long recognized as the symbol of love and fertility in various cultural traditions around the globe. In ancient Britain, priests revered mistletoe for its ability to thrive in the winter, seeing it as a symbol of vitality.
As time passed, it became intertwined with Norse mythology, where the goddess Frigg used mistletoe to bring her son, Balder, back to life, associating the plant with love and protection.
In the 18th century, in England, the origin of the modern tradition of kissing under the mistletoe happened. Since then, kissing beneath its boughs has been believed to bring luck. Also, in some traditions, it signifies a promise of marriage.
Candles hold a deep spiritual significance in the decoration of Christmas.
Going back to ancient Rome, candles were used during festivals of Saturnalia to ward off evil spirits. In the Christian context, candles symbolize the light of Christ as they represent hope, love, joy, and peace.
In today’s modern world, electric lights have replaced candles, but they still contain a place in many people’s hearts as they strictly include them in their Christmas decorations.
With their vibrant green leaves and bright red barrier, Holly looks mesmerizing and has been a Christmas symbol for centuries.
In pagan traditions, they used to believe that these leaves had the power to ward off evil spirits and protect them against winter hardships.
The holly plant was embraced by the early Christians, who imbued it with new meanings. The spiky leaves of the plant signified the crown of thorns, while the red berries stood for the blood of Christ.
Its popularity showcases how it fits perfectly in different cultures, creating a visually striking emblem that continues to grace homes during the holidays.
Gifts are the main attraction of Christmas as they embody the essence of generosity and love. You can also find roots of this tradition in the biblical narrative of the Magi presenting gifts to Jesus Christ.
However, in all these years, exchanging gifts has evolved, reflecting the joy of giving and receiving. Not just on Christmas, in many cultures and festivals across the globe, the emphasis is on thoughtful and meaningful presents, symbolizing care and goodwill.
There’s a tradition in Christmas hanging stockings for Santa to fill with gifts, further enhancing the magic of Christmas, which creates a sense of anticipation and delight.
If you plan to give gifts to your loved ones, make sure whatever you give them showcases that you care for them.
Bells have resonated through the ages as symbols of joy, celebration, and spiritual significance during Christmas. When we look into the Christian traditions, bells are rung to announce the arrival of the season, signaling the joyous moment and news of the birth of Christ.
The sound of ringing bells is not just a festive but also a symbolic act that invokes a sense of harmony and unity in family and friends. From the church bell towers to decorative ornaments, bells play a significant role in spreading Christmas cheer.
Bells are a must when decorating your house for Christmas and showcase that this is the time to celebrate your heart.
2.8. Candy Canes
How can we forget candy canes? With their distinctive red and white stripes, they are not just sugary delights but also carry symbolism with a historical significance.
You see, the shape is often associated with the shepherd’s crook, which symbolizes Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd. The crimson stripes symbolize the blood of Christ, and the color white stands for purity. In the 20th century, initially, an all-white confection and the addition of stripes occurred.
Today, Christmas trees adorned with candy canes serve as popular treats with a blend of sweetness and a meaningful connection to the Christian narrative. The popularity of Candy Canes during Christmas reflects the seamless integration of festive joy and spiritual symbolisms.
The star, the heart of the Christmas tree often adorned on the top, holds a deep symbolic significance dating back to the biblical narrative of the star of Bethlehem.
The star led the Magi to the birthplace of Jesus, according to the Gospel of Matthew. This indicates that a celestial beacon is an everlasting representation of light, hope, and divine direction. A star placed atop a Christmas tree serves as a reminder of the spiritual journey that Christmas represents.
This luminous amenity not only adds a celestial touch to the overall decoration but also carries a profound message of hope and inspiration during the festive season.
Additionally, let’s not deny the fact that Christmas decoration doesn’t look good without the topping of a beautiful star on it.
Angels, prevalent figures in Christmas iconography, embody the messengers of peace and bearers of good tidings from heaven to the earth. If we look into the biblical narratives, it says that angels announced the birth of Jesus to Shepherds in the fields.
These are celestial beings and are often depicted with wings and halos while also symbolizing purity and divinity. Angel figurines, tree toppers, and ornaments have become an integral part of everyone decorating their homes for Christmas.
Not just in Christianity, Angels are mentioned in all the religions that exist on this earth as celestial beings. Additionally, if you look beyond the religious part of them, angels evoke a sense of peace and goodwill during the holiday season.
Poinsettias, a plant with vibrant red and green foliage, has become synonymous with Christmas. It is named after the U.S. ambassador, Joel Poinsett who introduced the plant to the United States in the 19th century, and after that, it continuously evolved into a festive symbol in different cultures.
Christians believe that the green leaves of the plant stand for eternal life, while the scarlet leaves signify the blood of Christ.
If you look at them through the eyes of a Christian, you will find that not only are they visually striking but they also carry subtle yet meaningful connections to the religious aspects of Christmas.
Whether they are put on homes, churches, or public spaces, these cheerful plants contribute to the festive atmosphere while also symbolizing the joy and celebration embedded in the Christmas season.
2.12. Gingerbread House
The gingerbread house, with its aromatic blend of spices and sugary allure, has become a delightful and iconic Christmas symbol. Rooted in European folklore, the tradition of crafting edible dwellings gained immense popularity with the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel.
If we put aside its delicious appeal, the gingerbread house represents creativity, family togetherness, and the joy of the holiday season.
Families often come together to bake this house. They assemble and decorate these masterpieces, making them a cherished tradition while bringing loved ones together. The act of creating a gingerbread house fosters bonds and unleashes imagination, which makes it a sweet embodiment of the festive spirit.
Whether displayed as a centerpiece or enjoyed as a treat, the gingerbread house is a delectable symbol that adds a touch of whimsy and sweetness to the celebration of this mesmerizing festival, Christmas.
3. Lesser Known Facts About Christmas
Did you know that there are many lesser-known facts about Christmas? These facts can shake one up if they haven’t heard of them. Let’s discuss them in detail.
3.1. Evolution of Santa’s Image
Before 1931, when Coca-Cola’s transformative advertisement didn’t exist, Santa Claus had a less-than-jolly appearance. The beverage giant illustrator Haddon Sundblom crafted a warmer portrayal for magazine ads.
He made an iconic, rotund and red-suited Santa that is world-famous today. This creative shift not only impacted Santa’s image but also turned Christmas into a season of joy and warmth.
3.2. Jingle Bells in Outer Space
Jingle Bells was the first ever song played in outer space and holds an Interstellar distinction. 1965 was the year when astronauts Wally Schirra and Tkm Stafford aboard Gemini 6 serenaded Mission Control with a harmonica and sleigh bells rendition.
3.3. 1.5 Billion Messages in the Mail
In the U.S., sending Christmas cards is a tradition followed by almost every individual out there. There’s a study that says that a staggering 1.5. Billion Christmas cards traverse the nation each Christmas, which fosters connections and spreads festive cheer.
3.4. Birth of Christmas Cards
There were no such things as Christmas cards before 1843. It all happened after that when Sir Henry Cole, a key figure in establishing the Post Office, sought to encourage its use among ordinary people.
The first commercially produced Christmas card was designed by John Callcott Horsley, which featured festive scenes and sparked a tradition that has sustained for nearly two centuries.
3.5. When Celebrating Christmas Was Illegal
Yes, you read it right, there was a time when celebrating Christmas was illegal. If someone broke this law, they would have to pay a price of five shillings in the Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1659 to 1681.
While discovering the rich tapestry, we have discussed that each symbol holds not only its unique aesthetic charm but also profound cultural and historical significance.
We shouldn’t deny that history played a huge role in shaping this festival. From the Christmas tree to the gingerbread house, these symbols transcend mere decorations, becoming threads woven into the fabric of our shared festive traditions.
Also, the lesser known facts, from being an illegal festival to “Jingle Bells” being the first ever song played in outer space, tell us that Christmas has come a long way.
Q1. What was the original purpose of Christmas candles?
Candles represent the triumph of light over the darkness, as there was no such thing as electricity in ancient times. They used to celebrate by lighting the candles. Also, they used to believe that candles can ward off evil spirits.
Q2. Why was Christmas illegal?
From 1659 to 1681, celebrations of Christmas were deemed a dishonor to God. As a result, there were legal penalties to curb who celebrates this festival.
Faizal Khan is a talented content writer with expertise in crafting captivating blogs and articles in both Hindi and English. With a passion for writing, Faizal delivers clear, concise, and engaging content that resonates with readers. His ability to seamlessly switch between languages allows him to cater to a diverse audience and create impactful pieces across various platforms. Faizal delves into diverse fields of topics, capturing readers’ attention with his captivating content.