Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Traditions- Symbols

There has been a lot of talk about Christmas Traditions on a lot of the blogs I read. You can check out their traditions here and here.....Among other's out there in blog land I am sure.

Since I've already shared some of our traditions here, I thought I would share another part of my advent study. I shared with my little group last night where some of the things we do as part of our Christmas Traditions come from. There are many different legends about how they symbols of our Christmases came about. I hope you enjoy reading what I've put together here.

Wreaths -
Legend 1 – Wreaths were originally used as fabric headbands and could be adorned with jewels (a diadem). In 776 BC - Laurel wreaths were used to crown the champions of the Olympic games. The transition from headband to wall decor probably occurred as they hung their ‘trophies’ on the wall as a souvenir.
Legend 2 – Christ’s crown of thorns was made of holly. The berries were said to once be white but when the wreath was placed on Jesus’ head, His blood turned them red.

Legend 3 – They came from Germany, before Christ, when people gathered evergreen wreaths and made fires as signs of the coming spring and renewed light. 16th century Christians used these to symbolize hope and everlasting life in Christ.

Advent Wreath
some believe it was inspired by the Swedish Crown of Lights, a candle-bearing crown worn by young Swedish girls on St. Lucia's Day. St. Lucia was a young Christian martyr who gave her entire dowry to the poor.
Christmas Tree -

Legend 1 – From Germany, before time of Jesus, as with the wreaths – people would decorate with evergreen trees during the winter solstice ceremonies. St.Boniface was an 8th century missionary to Germany. He used the 3 points of the Christmas tree as a symbol for the Trinity (the triangle). The legend says that St. Boniface one day came upon people who were going to sacrifice a child to their ,who was symbolized by an oak tree. In order to save the child’s life, St. Boniface cut the oak tree down with an ax. A fir tree sprang up from the stump of the fallen oak. St. Boniface then told people that the fir trees stood for the eternal life of Christ. This legend is most likely a story that shows how he replaced the worship of the gods (the oak tree) with Christianity (fir tree).

Legend 2 – From the 16th Century -Martin Luther was walking home from a Christmas Eve service in the forest. Some say he was the star shining through the evergreen trees. Others say that he saw the star reflected off the icicles that were on the tree. The lights reminded him of Jesus, the Light of the World. He cut the tree down and took it home placing candles on the branches to reflect what he saw.

Legend 3 – Says that in Germany the evergreen tree was used as a prop in medieval plays about Adam and Eve. And it was called the “Paradise Tree”. These plays were preformed annually on Dec. 24th. They used the evergreen tree because the apple trees no longer had their leaves – so they put the apples on the evergreen tree. Later on wafers were hung on the tree to symbolize communion. Eventually cookies and sweets replaced the wafers.

Legend 4 – In the 1800’s in what is now the Lutheran Church (the the Reform Church), the tree is often a biblical reference to the cross, evergreen because of everlasting life. They decorated it with roses representing the Rose of Sharon (song of Solomon) with a single candle at the top representing Christ as the light of the world.

Ornaments -
Early trees were decorated with fruit, nuts, and flowers. Later on cookies, other foods and candles were added.

A star or angel on top -both in night sky the night Jesus was born.

Lights could represent the stars in the heavens or come from the story of Martin Luther.

Tinsel – The legend says that a poor family was unable to afford decorations for their tree. So, spiders covered the tree in webs during the night. Some traditions add that either the Christ Child or the rising sun turned the webs to silver.

Mistletoe -
was sacred to the ancient druids as a symbol of eternal life. They used it in sacrifices to their gods at the winter solstice. Priests in white robes cut them down in a special ceremony. It was also hung over doorways to ward off evil and bring happiness, health and good luck. ]

Kissing under the mistletoe came from a tale of the Scandinavian goddess named Frigga. Her son Balder was shot with an arrow made of mistletoe; her tears (or her friends ,while she cried) saved the son and Frigga ordered mistletoe should not be used to harm others again; Frigga made the mistletoe a symbol of love instead and kissed anyone standing under it; thus, mistletoe became symbol of peace. It was also a symbol of peace to the Romans.
Holly –
The Teutonic people placed holly around their homes to ward off evil spirits and bad weather.

In England, the thorny holly was referred to as male and the smooth holly was female. Traditions has it that the first type brought into the house foretold who will rule the household for the next year – the man or the woman. For the sake of marital harmony, they sometimes brought both in at the same time.

The Ancient Druids believe that holly was favored by their sun god. They thought that holly was inhabited by spirits and they brought it indoors to give those spirits shelter from the winter weather.

Later on, Europeans believed holly to be a good luck charm against bad weather.

Today, Holly reminds us of the crown of thorns placed on Jesus’ head because of the sharp pointed edges. The red berries remind us of the blood he shed on the cross.
The poinsettia plan was named after Joel Roberts Poinsett who imported it from Mexico in 1828. According to an old Mexican legend, a poor boy had nothing to give the Christ Child on Christmas. He prayed sincerely, and a plant, called The Flower of the Holy Night, grew at his feet in the brilliant Christmas colors, red and green. Poinsettia’s remind us that Jesus will meet all of our needs.

A couple of the others I shared are way too long to leave in this post. Go check out The Legend of The Candy Cane and The 12 Days of Christmas for yourselves.....

Have a fabulous day! We are headed to my sister's house for the night. We will visit tonight unless I can convince my hubs it is a good idea to drive to downtown Atlanta to do this tonight.
But tomorrow we will take our girls here -- they are very excited. And then we will have family pictures made before returning home. Ya'll say a prayer for us -- 2 or 3 kids have colds and B's is a full blown ear infection now. Pray we can do the pictures.


Deidre said...

This is all so interesting. I'm coming back to let it all soak in.

Lisa said...

Neat Post!

Prayers that you'll be ear infection free soon!

Wendy said...

Very educational. I'm going to have Drennan read this as part of his school!