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Christmas Symbols




There are many Christmas symbols which pops up all around the world at the time of Christmas. Below describes the some of the symbols and description of them.



Advent Wreath


The Advent wreath, or Advent crown, is a Christian tradition that symbolizes the passage of the four weeks of Advent in the liturgical calendar of the Western church. The liturgical year, also known as the church year, consists of the cycle of liturgical seasons in Christian churches that determines when feast days, including celebrations of saints, are to be observed, and which portions of Scripture are to be read either in an annual cycle or in a cycle of several years. Distinct liturgical colours may appear in connection with different seasons of the liturgical year. 

Advent is a season observed in many Western Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. The term is an anglicized version of the Latin word adventus, meaning "coming".


Advent is the beginning of the Western liturgical year and commences on Advent Sunday. The Eastern churches' equivalent of Advent is called the Nativity Fast, but it differs in both length and observances and does not begin the church year, which starts instead on September 1. At least in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Moravian, Presbyterian and Methodist calendars, Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before December, which is the Sunday between November 27 and December 3 inclusive.

Latin adventus is the translation of the Greek word parousia, commonly used to refer to the Second Coming of Christ. For Christians, the season of Advent anticipates the coming of Christ from two different perspectives. The season offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, and to be alert for his Second Coming.In Christianity, the Second Coming of Christ, the second advent, sometimes called the parousia, is the anticipated return of Jesus to Earth.



The Second Coming, Icon, Greek, c. 1700, the bosom of Abraham lower left, the "Good Thief" in lower right.


The Advent Wreath is traditionally a Lutheran practice, although it has spread to many other Christian denominations. 

Lutheranism is a major branch of Western Christianity that identifies with the theology of Martin Luther, a German monk and theologian. 
Martin Luther


Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the Roman Catholic Church launched the Protestant Reformation in the mid 16th century in Germany. Beginning with the 95 Theses, first published in 1517, Luther's writings were disseminated internationally, spreading the early ideas of the Reformation beyond the influence and control of the Roman Catholic Curia(an council in which public, official or religious issues are discussed decisions made) and the Holy Roman Empire.(The Holy Roman Empire was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in central Europe that lasted from the coronation of Otto I as emperor in 962 until Francis II dissolved the imperial title in 1806. The largest territory within the empire was the Kingdom of Germany, and at its peak the empire included the Kingdom of Italy, the Kingdom of Bohemia and the Kingdom of Burgundy.)

Advent Wreath is usually a horizontal evergreen wreath with four candles and often, a fifth, white candle in the center. Beginning with the First Sunday of Advent, the lighting of a candle can be accompanied by a Bible reading and prayers where the Advent wreath is placed at the altar. An additional candle is lit during each subsequent week until, by the last Sunday before Christmas, all four candles are lit. Many Advent wreaths include a fifth, Christ candle which is lit at Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The custom is observed both in family settings and at public church services. Most Advent wreaths use three colors – purple, pink, and white. However, some may use blue in place of the purple.

In Catholic churches, the most popular colours for the Advent candles are violet and rose, corresponding with the colors of the liturgical vestments for the Sundays of Advent. In the Western church, Violet is the historic liturgical color for three of the four Sundays of Advent: Violet is the traditional color of penitential seasons. Rose is the color for the Third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday from the Latin word meaning "to rejoice"--also from the first line of the traditional entrance prayer (called the Introit) for the Mass of the third Sunday of Advent.Rose-colored vestments are used on Gaudete Sunday, as a pause to the penitential spirit of Advent.

In Protestant churches it is more common to use four red candles (reflecting their traditional use in Christmas decorations) because rose vestments and decorations are not commonly used in Protestant churches. Blue is also a popular alternative color for both Advent vestments and Advent candles, especially in some Anglican and Lutheran churches. This is in keeping with the liturgical seasons; blue means hope and waiting, which aligns with the seasonal meaning of Advent. Other variations of the Advent wreath add a white candle in the centre to symbolize Christmas, sometimes known as the "Christ candle." It can be lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. White is the traditional festal colour in the Western church. Four red candles with one white one is probably the most common arrangement in Protestant churches in Britain.


1st CANDLE – (purple) THE PROPHECY CANDLE or CANDLE OF HOPE

We can have hope because God is faithful and will keep the promises made to us. Our hope comes from God. “And again, Isaiah says, ‘The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.’ May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:12-13)


2nd CANDLE – (purple) THE BETHLEHEM CANDLE or THE CANDLE OF PREPARATION

God kept his promise of a Savior who would be born in Bethlehem.  Preparation means to “get ready”. Help us to be ready to welcome YOU, O GOD! “As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: ‘A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God’s salvation.‘ (Luke 3:4-6)

3rd CANDLE – (pink) THE SHEPHERD CANDLE or THE CANDLE OF JOY

The angels sang a message of JOY! “…and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’ When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” (Luke 2:7-15)

4th CANDLE – (purple) THE ANGEL CANDLE or THE CANDLE OF LOVE

The angels announced the good news of a Savior.  God sent his only Son to earth to save us, because he loves us! “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)

5th CANDLE – (white) “CHRIST CANDLE”

The white candle reminds us that Jesus is the spotless lamb of God, sent to wash away our sins! His birth was for his death, his death was for our birth! “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!‘” (John 1:29)
“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.’ In reply Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’ ‘How can a man be born when he is old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.‘” (John 3:1-8)


Each candle on the wreath stands for a Sunday (and its following week) of the Advent season. Candles 1, 2, and 4 are purple. In the ancient world purple dye was very expensive and could only be afforded by kings. The purple candles tells, that the one whose birth we are preparing to celebrate is our true King. The rose candle (3rd Sunday) tells, that Advent is half over and Christmas is getting nearer and nearer.

The Advent wreath is made of evergreens, which are symbolic of life itself and, since they last through the winter, point to God’s gift of life which comes, even when the world is dark and threatening. Many kinds of evergreens can be used to make the wreaths at Church. Others can be added later on at home. Each has its own symbolic meaning.


Pine

The most common evergreen, points to Everlasting Life.





Laurel (Bay)

Which was used to crown those who won in the games, signifies victory.
(http://thegardenpalette.wordpress.com/tag/bay-laurel/)




Cedar

Because it is long lasting and aromatic, is symbolic of strength and healing.



 



Juniper , holly, and rosemary

By legend these plants provided shelter and help for the Holy Family when they fled from Bethlehem to Egypt. The fragrance of rosemary, it has been said, began when the Virgin Mary laid out the Infant Jesus’ clothes to dry on this plant. The rosemary bush responded by perfuming the Christ Child’s clothing.


Juniper

http://herbalriot.tumblr.com/post/59402439571/aromatherapy-tip-of-the-day-juniper




Rosemary

http://www.liveandfeel.com/articles/benefits-of-rosemary-herb-1753




Holly

Its prickly leaves remind us of the Crown of Thorns. Its red berries remind us of the Blood of Jesus shed for us upon the Cross.







Ivy

Since it is frequently used as a decoration, has always been a symbol of joy and festivity.








Christmas Crib




The symbolic presentation of crib brings the atmosphere of Jesus's birth. Making the crib has become an inevitable custom in our time, by doing it we also experience the situation in which Jesus was born. A Christmas crib reminds us of respecting the people who are in poverty and value the life of everyone.


Christmas crib is A nativity scene, also known as a manger scene. The term "nativity scene" may be used of any representation of the very common subject of the Nativity of Jesus in art, it has a more specialized sense referring to seasonal displays, either using model figures in a setting or enactments called "living nativity scenes" in which real humans and animals participate. Nativity scenes exhibit figures representing the infant Jesus, his mother Mary, and Joseph. Other characters from the nativity story such as shepherds and sheep, and angels may be displayed near the manger in a barn (or cave) intended to accommodate farm animals, as described in the gospels of Luke. A donkey and an ox are typically depicted in the scene, as well as the Magi and camels belonging to the Magi described in the Matthew. Several cultures add other characters and objects that may be Biblical or not.

Saint Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first nativity scene in 1223 (a "living" one) intending thereby to cultivate the worship of Christ, having been inspired by his recent visit to the Holy Land where he had been shown Jesus's traditional birthplace. The scene's popularity inspired communities throughout Catholic countries to stage similar pantomimes.

















Christmas Stocking




A Christmas stocking is an empty sock or sock-shaped bag that is hung on Christmas Eve so that Santa Claus (or Father Christmas) can fill it with small toys, candy, fruit, coins or other small gifts when he arrives. These small items are often referred to as stocking stuffers or stocking fillers. In some Christmas stories, the contents of the Christmas stocking are the only toys the child receives at Christmas from Santa Claus; in other stories (and in tradition), some presents are also wrapped up in wrapping paper and placed under the Christmas tree. Tradition in Western culture threatens that a child who behaves badly during the year will receive only a piece or pile of coal. However, coal is rarely if ever left in a stocking, as it is considered cruel. Some people even put their Christmas stocking by their bedposts so Santa Claus can fill it by the bed while they sleep.

While there are no written records of the origin of the Christmas Stocking, there are popular legends that attempt to tell the history of this Christmas tradition.

Very long ago, there lived a poor man and his three very beautiful daughters. He had no money to get his daughters married, and he was worried what would happen to them after his death. He thought they would become prostitutes. Saint Nicholas was passing through when he heard the villagers talking about the girls. St. Nicholas wanted to help, but knew that the old man wouldn't accept charity. He decided to help in secret. After dark he threw three bags of gold through an open window, one landed in a stocking. When the girls and their father woke up the next morning they found the bags of gold and were, of course, overjoyed. The girls were able to get married and live happily ever after. Other versions of the story say that Saint Nicholas threw the 3 bags of gold directly into the stockings which were hung by the fireplace to dry.


This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas.Saint Nicholas; also called Nikolaos of Myra, was a historic 4th-century Christian saint and Greek Bishop of Myra in Lycia. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so, St. Nicholas is a gift-giver. This is also the origin of 3 gold balls being used as a symbol for pawnbrokers.

A tradition that began in a European country originally, children simply used one of their everyday socks, but eventually special Christmas stockings were created for this purpose. The Christmas stocking custom is derived from the Germanic/Scandinavian figure Odin. Odin is a major god in Norse mythology, the Allfather of the gods, and the ruler of Asgard.

According to Phyllis Siefker, children would place their boots, filled with carrots, straw, or sugar, near the chimney for Odin's flying horse, Sleipnir, to eat. Odin would reward those children for their kindness by replacing Sleipnir's food with gifts or candy. This practice, she claims, survived in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands after the adoption of Christianity and became associated with Saint Nicholas as a result of the process of Christianization. Today, stores carry a large variety of styles and sizes of Christmas stockings, and Christmas stockings are also a popular homemade craft. This claim is disputed though as there is no records of stocking filling practices related to Odin until there is a merging of St. Nicholas with Odin. St. Nicholas had an earlier merging with the Grandmother cult in Bari, Italy where the grandmother would put gifts in stockings. This merged St. Nicholas would later travel north and merge with the Odin cults. 

Many families create their own Christmas stockings with each family member's name applied to the stocking so that Santa will know which stocking belongs to which family member.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_stocking
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odin
Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men: The Origins and Evolution of Saint Nicholas, Spanning 50,000 Years by Phyllis Siefker (Nov 27, 2006)



Poinsettia


The Poinsettia with its beautiful, red star shaped poinsettia is a favorite flower in the United States. In Central America it is called the "Flame Leaf" or "Flower of the Holy Night". The legend of the poinsettia comes from Mexico.




The poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is a culturally and commercially important plant species of the diverse spurge family that is indigenous to Mexico and Central America. It is particularly well known for its red and green foliage and is widely used in Christmas floral displays. It derives its common English name from Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Minister to Mexico, who introduced the plant into the United States in 1825.



Angel

According to the bible a host of angels proclaimed the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. Angels come in many forms for Christmas decorations including the Christmas tree topper.









Christmas Cards

 



A Christmas card (also called holiday card in the U.S.) is a greeting card sent as part of the traditional celebration of Christmas in order to convey between people a range of sentiments related to the Christmas and holiday season. Christmas cards are usually exchanged during the weeks preceding Christmas Day by many people (including non-Christians) in Western society and in Asia. The traditional greeting reads "wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year". There are innumerable variations on this greeting, many cards expressing more religious sentiment, or containing a poem, prayer or Biblical verse; others stay away from religion with an all-inclusive "Season's greetings".

A Christmas card is generally commercially designed and purchased for the occasion. The content of the design might relate directly to the Christmas narrative with depictions of the Nativity of Jesus, or have Christian symbols such as the Star of Bethlehem or a white dove representing both the Holy Spirit and Peace. Many Christmas cards show Christmas traditions, such as seasonal figures (e.g., Santa Claus, snowmen, and reindeer), objects associated with Christmas such as candles, holly, baubles, and Christmas trees, and Christmastime activities such as shopping, caroling, and partying, or other aspects of the season such as the snow and wildlife of the northern winter. Some secular cards depict nostalgic scenes of the past such as crinolined shoppers in 19th century streetscapes; others are humorous, particularly in depicting the antics of Santa and his elves.



The first Christmas cards were commissioned by Sir Henry Cole and illustrated by John Callcott Horsley in London on the 1st of May 1843. John Callcott Horsley (29 January 1817 – 18 October 1903), was an English Academic painter of genre and historical scenes, illustrator. He was a member of the artist's colony in Cranbrook. And Sir Henry Cole (15 July 1808 – 18 April 1882) was an English civil servant and inventor who facilitated many innovations in commerce and education in 19th century Britain. Cole is credited with devising the concept of sending greetings cards at Christmas time, introducing the world's first commercial Christmas card in 1843.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_card

First Christmas Card




Yule Log


The word "Yule" means "wheel" a symbol representing the sun. Before Jesus was born, pagans thoughts 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.

A yule log is a large and very hard log which is burned in the hearth as a part of traditional Yule or modern Christmas celebrations in several European cultures. It may also be associated with the winter solstice festival or the Twelve Days of Christmas, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or Twelfth Night.






The expression yule log has also come to refer to log-shaped Christmas cakes, also known as chocolate logs or bûche de Noël. The yule log is related to other Christmas and Yuletide traditions such as the ashen faggot.



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yule_log


Mistletoe

The mistletoe has long been considered a magical plant. Mistletoe is an aerial parasite that has no toots of its own and lives off the tree that it attached itself to. It was used in various potions as a universal remedy and fertility drug. From the earliest times mistletoe has been one of the most magical, mysterious, and sacred plants of European folklore. Kissing under the mistletoe is first found associated with the Greek festival of Saturnalia and later with primitive marriage rites. The mistletoe is used during Christmas as the emblem of a love which conquers death.
When Christianity became widespread in Europe after the third century AD, the religious or mystical respect for the mistletoe plant was integrated to an extent into the new religion. In some way that is not presently understood, this may have led to the widespread custom of kissing under the mistletoe plant during the Christmas season. The earliest documented case of kissing under the mistletoe dates from 16th century England, a custom that was apparently very popular at that time.



Mistletoe is commonly used as a Christmas decoration, though such use was rarely alluded to until the 18th century. Viscum album is used in Europe whereas Phoradendron serotinum is used in North America. Both are commercially harvested. According to custom, the mistletoe must not touch the ground between its cutting and its removal as the last of Christmas greens at Candlemas. It may remain hanging throughout the year, often to preserve the house from lightning or fire, until it is replaced the following Christmas Eve. The tradition has spread throughout the English-speaking world, but is largely unknown in the rest of Europe.



The type of mistletoe used during Christmas celebrations is of the same type as that believed to be held sacred by ancient druids, but, outside northern Europe, the plant used is not of the same species. The mistletoe that is commonly used as a Christmas decoration in North America (Phoradendron flavescens) grows as a parasite on trees in the west as also in those growing in a line down the east from New Jersey to Florida. In Europe, where the custom originates, the 'original' mistletoe, Viscum album, is still used. 

The European mistletoe is a green shrub with small, yellow flowers and white, sticky berries which are considered poisonous. Ancient druids considered the Viscum album plant holy, but had no knowledge of the Phoradendron flavescens. Modern druids focus on the parasitic habitat on oak (where it is very rarely found) as being the definer of a sacred mistletoe, and use Phoradendron flavescens as well as other mistletoe species.


According to an old Christmas custom, a man and a woman who meet under a hanging of mistletoe were obliged to kiss. The custom may be of Scandinavian origin. It was alluded to as common practice in 1808[23] and described in 1820 by American author Washington Irving in his The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.




Candy Cane


The Candy Cane, used during the holidays, stands as an important Christmas symbol, The color white symbolizes the purity and sinless nature of Jesus. next, three small stripes to symbolize pain inflicted upon Jesus before his death on the cross and a bold stripe to represent the blood he shed for mankind, Two other symbols are distinctive on the Candy Cane.When looked at, it looks like a Shepard's staff because Jesus in the Shepard of man. Then if we turn it upside sown, we will notice the shape of the letter J symbolizing the first letter in Jesus's name.

According to folklore, in 1670, in Cologne, Germany, the choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral, wishing to remedy the noise caused by children in his church during the Living Crèche tradition of Christmas Eve, asked a local candy maker for some sweet sticks for them. In order to justify the practice of giving candy to children during worship services, he asked the candy maker to add a crook to the top of each stick, which would help children remember the shepherds who paid visit to infant Jesus. In addition, he used the white colour of the converted sticks to teach children about the Christian belief in the sinless life of Jesus.From Germany, the candy canes spread to other parts of Europe, where they were handed out during plays reenacting the Nativity.




A recipe for straight peppermint candy sticks, white with colored stripes, was published in 1844. The candy cane has been mentioned in literature since 1866,was first mentioned in association with Christmas in 1874, and as early as 1882 was hung on Christmas trees.Chicago confectioners the Bunte Brothers filed the earliest patents for candy cane making machines in the early 1920s.






Bells




Bells represent Joy and Sorrow. They are a symbol of creativity and harmony; the creating Word, and the music of the spheres, On Christmas Eve, these bells are heard ringing at midnight.

The bells were (and still are, in some places) rung to announce the anniversary of Christ's birth. When we see Christmas bells, we are reminded of the joyful announcement of Jesus' birth. Bells are also ancient symbols of protection and ringing them have long been considered a way to ward off negativity. To our ancestral minds, the very shape of the bell is reminiscent to dome of heaven. In Christianity the ringing of a bell is a sacred announcement to the presence of Christ at mass.

In addition Bells are used in various Christmas decorations including the decoration of Christmas tree.




Christmas Tree



Many pagan cultures worshipped evergreens, saw them as symbols of immortality, and used them to ward off evil spirits. In the early 700’s, Saint Boniface, who converted the German people to Christianity, demolished the Oak of Thor, the mighty sacred tree worshipped by the Saxons. From its roots grew a fir tree which Boniface took as a sign of the Christian faith. In the 11th century, Paradise plays portrayed the tree of Paradise, decorated with red apples. During the 15thcentury, the faithful began to erect trees in their homes on December 24, the feast day of Adam and Eve.


About the year 1500, Martin Luther, inspired by a snow covered fir tree, brought a small tree indoors and decorated it with candles in honor of Christ’s birth. By the 18th century, the custom of decorating a Christmas tree was well established in France, Germany, and Austria. Thus, the Christmas tree represents the original Tree of Paradise, the burning bush which spoke to Moses, the branch of Jesse from which Jesus was born, the life-giving tree of the cross of Christ, and the tree which St. John the Apostle saw in the Book of Revelations whose leaves have medicine for the people and which yields fruit each month for the healing of the nations. Because it is green year-round, the evergreen tree represents hope. Its needles and its narrow crest point upward, turning our thoughts to heaven. Because the tree is cut down and then erected again, it is a symbol of Christ’s resurrection.

http://excitementnnet.blogspot.com/search/label/Creative


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