The meaning of Christmas Symbols

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Hey everyone, how are you? Feeling Christmassy yet?

I am!

I love learning new things, I guess I’m a bit of a nerd like that, and I love understanding the meaning behind symbols and sayings (think Langdon in the DaVinci code). Christmas is filled with these, from the tree to the mistletoe and even the act of giving gifts, every single element of Christmas has a meaning behind it. I’m not going to preach that we should remember the “true” meaning of Christmas (that would make me a bit of a hypocrite because I am an atheist and have no religious beliefs) and Christmas means something different to each person. I am however going to decipher some of the Christmas symbols, and look at where they come from and what they really mean.

  1. The Christmas Tree-This is probably the most famous Christmas symbol, and the majority of people celebrating Christmas will have one in their homes! So what does it mean? The key lies in which type of tree we use, the evergreen, so named because it never loses its colour. We decorate these trees, real or not, as a symbol of the lasting love that the Christmas story represents.
  2. Holly and Ivy- This is to remind Christians of the crown of thorns that Jesus was forced to wear upon his head. The sharp leaves of the holly stands to represent the thorns, while the deep red berries are his blood.
  3. Tinsel- There is a legend about a poor family that couldn’t afford to decorate their Christmas tree a long time ago. It is said that during Christmas Eve night, a spider spun his web across the tree meaning that in the morning it was shining in the light. It is said that God then rewarded the family by turning the web into strands of pure gold. These days, in homage to this legend, we use strands of different colour tinsel to decorate our homes and trees.
  4. Candy Cane- Even the Christmas sweets have a meaning and the candy cane is no different. It is shaped as a cane, to remind us that Jesus was the Good Shepard while its colours represent his suffering (red) and his purity (white).
  5. Father Christmas- Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without this chirpy fella but did you know he is actually based on a real character? Yup, Saint Nicholas took Jesus’ words about alms to his heart and was famed for his generosity (which was often anonymous) hence we have a gift giving Santa Clause. There is however one more twist in this story. Father Christmas was originally dressed in fawn and brown colours, but over the years he was seen to wear red as an adoption of the festive colours (and bishops from the period sometimes wore red too). However it wasn’t until Coke Cola ran a massive marketing campaign that featured the saint in a red fur trimmed coat in the 1930s that the red Santa really stuck.
  6. Chimney and Stocking- This is once again the result of a legend, one that is connected to our lovely St Nick. It is said that one evening, wanting to give gifts to a poor family but to remain anonymous at the same time, St Nick threw coins down the families chimney and the coins happened to land in a sticking that was hung there to dry.

Whatever your religion, beliefs or interpretation of the Christmas story, or even lack of religion for that matter, we can all take a listen from Saint Nicholas.

For me Christmas means family, it means traditions but it’s also a time of kindness and giving. What does Christmas mean for you?

Speak soon,


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