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- 8 Symbols of Christmas: And How They Represent Christ
- 8 Symbols of Christmas
- 6 ‘Secular’ Christmas Symbols That Are Powerfully Christian
- 1. The Christmas Tree
- 2. Santa Claus
- 3. Gifts
- 4. Wreaths
- 5. Red and Green
- 6. Poinsettia
- The True Meaning Behind 3 Christian Christmas Symbols
- 10 Symbols of Christmas and What They Mean
- Ampersand Design – 20 reasons you should have an & in your home decor
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- The Christmas tree
- The Advent wreath
- Santa Claus
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8 Symbols of Christmas: And How They Represent Christ
Written byKatie Bennett
My mother-in-law gave me an early Christmas gift this year, Christmas pillows she had made by hand.
The unique thing about these pillows is they are made with fabric on which is printed rhymes about the meanings of various Christmas symbols.
Some of the meanings I had heard or could have inferred, while others I didn’t know.
It has been fun to explain these meanings to my daughter, who has really latched on to them. Now when we see a Christmas tree she says, “Look mom! It’s pointing up to God!”
The fabric was designed by Nancy Halvorsent or Art to Heart and, if you’re interested, you can purchase it here.
8 Symbols of Christmas
“a symbol of giving who hopes to instill joy and a love of peace and goodwill”
I haven’t known exactly how to address Santa. We’re not emphasizing him to our young children, but he’s definitely someone about whom they are developing their own ideas.
This gave me a fun new way to approach the topic, explaining him a symbol of giving and goodwill.
“A candle burns bright so we will not stray, He’s our Savior, our Christ and He lights the way.”
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2
“Evergreen trees point to God high above, reminding His children of Christ’s endless love.”
Let these be a reminder, pointing up, to draw our eyes and the eyes of our hearts back to God.
“A heavenly sign shown to all on that night, a shining hope guiding us with His light.”
“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.” Matthew 2:9-11a
“A shepherd’s crook used to guide his lambs, we serve each other with helping hands.”
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:14-15
“Lost sheep are found by the sound of the bell, we’re never lost to Him, a joyous noel.”
Like a cowbell, free roaming sheep wear bells making them easier to locate should they wander off. In the same way, bells represent that Jesus found us when we were lost. He saved us from sin.
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:12-14
“His greatest gift was given to all, it should be cherished by large and small.”
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
“A wreath is a circle in endless connection, a symbol for us of His love and affection.”
Just as God is endless and eternal, with no beginning and no end, so will His love for us endure forever.
I hope you share these symbolic meanings with your families in the coming days, and discover deeper meaning in what can easily be superficial this season.
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6 ‘Secular’ Christmas Symbols That Are Powerfully Christian
The spirit of Jesus is everywhere during the Christmas season, even in the most unexpected places, like Christmas trees and Santa Claus. While some people believe these symbols have pagan roots, Christians can take heart knowing that these are very much symbols of God’s love for us.
Let’s explore this further by looking at six “secular” Christmas symbols with a remarkably solid Christian history.
1. The Christmas Tree
Many historians believe Christmas tree traditions were adapted by Christians to convert pagans. Long before Christianity, people decorated their homes with boughs from pine, spruce and fir around December 21, the shortest day of the year in northern hemisphere. The evergreen boughs reminded them that the sun would return and would make everything green again.
In contrast, Catholic historians give credit to St. Boniface, a 7th century monk who spread the Gospel to Germany. On December 24, he visited the town of Geismar to find it empty. All of the residents were gathered around a huge oak, dedicated to a pagan deity, that they believed indestructible.They were going to sacrifice a child. St. Boniface saved the child and felled the oak with a single strike from his axe; some legends state a gust of wind uprooted the tree as he struck it.
St. Boniface then proclaimed the Gospel and pointed to a small fir. He declared it a symbol of the Christ child and eternal life for its ever-green needles and its shape, which pointed to heaven. He advised them to bring trees like it into their homes and gather around it, sharing gifts and kindness. Find out many more details about the Christian meaning behind the Christmas tree.
Today, the Christmas tree stands as a centerpiece to the holiday season.
2. Santa Claus
While Santa Claus was based on St. Nicholas in Europe, English settlers in America gave the tradition a pagan slant. Here’s how it happened, according to CatholicCulture.org:
When the Dutch immigrated to America, their children were visited by Sinterklaas, the traditional St. Nicholas, on Dec. 6, his feast day. English Protestant children wanted to participate, too, but their parents found the figure of a Catholic saint and bishop unacceptable, and they obviously didn’t celebrate Catholic feast days. So, in the 18th Century, they shifted credit to the pagan deity Thor, who they portrayed as an elderly, jovial man with a long white beard.
Regardless that today’s Santa Claus has been positioned as a mythical figure, many Catholics share the perspective of Kendra Tierney, Catholic mom and author of the blog Catholic All Year.
“Santa Claus was an actual historical, Catholic person. He was born in what is now Turkey in the third century. He became Bishop of Myra. He was real,” she writes in a blog post. “He continues to be real and to exist, because as Catholics we believe in an everlasting soul that never dies”
St. Nicholas of Myra is considered a patron of children for his generosity to them, and for saving three young girls from slavery by paying their dowries.
She points out St. Nicholas as a canonized saint and, as such, he is powerful.
“(This) means we believe that he lives in heaven and can hear our prayers and intercede with God the Father for us,” asserts Tierney.
Read Kendra Tierney’s full blog post here.
Before Christianity, gifts were exchanged during pagan winter solstice festivals. According to CatholicCulture.org, the Catholic Church adapted these gift-giving traditions circa 320 to help converts focus on Christianity. Christians at the time were happy to celebrate because they viewed the day as holy not because of the birth of the sun, but because of Him who made it.
Today, Catholics can continue to view gift-giving from a Christian perspective by considering it inspiration by the wise men who brought their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to honor Jesus, and by reflecting on the greatest gift of all, our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.
The wreath is believed to have Northern European origins when people used them with lit candles during the darkest days of winter to symbolize hope for the coming sun.
By the Middle Ages, Christians adapted this tradition with the Advent wreath, according to the Catholic Education Resource Center. It was an easy transition because we have hope in the coming Son during Christmastime, for Christ is the Light of the world.
By 1600, both Catholics and Lutherans had more formal wreath practices and today, wreaths are everywhere at Christmastime. When you see one, keep in mind how every aspect of it symbolizes Jesus:
- Evergreens represent eternal life.
- Laurel mean persecution and suffering.
- Pine and yew signify immortality.
- Cedar means strength and healing.
- Holly’s prickly leaves remind us of the crown of thorns.
- Pine cones signify death and resurrection.
- The circular construction represents His eternity; God has no beginning or end.
5. Red and Green
Some historians believe that green and red emerged as the colors of Christmas because of the evergreen and holly used in pagan winter solstice celebrations. Others believe red and green marked boundaries in ancient Celtic cultures. They speculate this practice was adapted by medieval churches to:
- Denote areas in the church for the parishioners and those for the priests.
- Mark the end of the old liturgical year and the start of the new one.
For Christians today, red and green are symbolic of Jesus. Red symbolizes the blood He shed for our salvation, and green symbolizes His gift of everlasting life.
Native to Central America, poinsettias have been used by Aztecs for practical purposes such as dye and medicine, according to an article on Altetia.org, a worldwide Catholic resource sharing site. But after being introduced to the U.S. by John Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, they became associated with Christmas.
The shape of its leaves remind us of the star of Bethlehem, the deep red signifies Christ’s blood and the green leaves life and hope. Adding further meaning to this beautiful plant is the legend of a poor Mexican girl who desperately wanted to honor baby Jesus at Christmas Eve mass but had nothing to give Him. Her cousin consoled her by saying that even the smallest gift by someone who loves Him will make Jesus happy. So she picked a handful of weeds, brought them to the altar, and laid them at the foot of the nativity scene. Amazingly, the bouquet burst into bright red flowers, and everyone who saw them were certain they had seen a miracle.
From that Christmas Eve forward, the bright red poinsettia flowers were known as the “Flores de Noche Buena,” or “Flowers of the Holy Night.”
Read the full Aleteia article here.
As you set out cookies for Santa Claus, gather around the Christmas tree to exchange gifts, deck your home in red and green, hang a wreath on your door and send poinsettias to faraway loved ones, you can feel good knowing that these traditions are steeped in Catholic faith and the love of Jesus.
Find out more about the meaning behind Christmas and Advent:
- The Meaning Behind the Christmas Tree in Christianity
- How to Use the Symbols of Advent to Keep Jesus at the Center of the Season
- 2016 Advent Gift Guide
Symbols of Christmas
by Sherry Dillehay
Just a week before Christmas, I had a visitor. This is how it happened. I had just finished the household chores for the night and was preparing to go to bed when I heard a noise in the front of the house. I opened the door of the front room, and to my surprise, Santa Claus himself stepped out from behind the Christmas tree. He placed his fingers over my mouth so I would not cry out.
“What are you doing…..” I started to ask but the words choked in my throat as I saw he had tears in his eyes. His usual jolly manner was gone…gone was the eager, boisterous soul we all know.
He then answered me with a simple statement of “TEACH THE CHILDREN.” I was puzzled. What did he mean? He anticipated my question and with one quick movement brought forth a miniature toy boy from behind the tree. As I stood there bewildered, Santa said again, “TEACH THE CHILDREN. Teach them the old meaning of Christmas–the meaning that Christmas now has forgotten.”
I started to say, “How can I….” when Santa reached into the toy bag and pulled out a brilliant shiny star.
“Teach the children the star was the heavenly sign of promise long ages ago. God promised a savior for the world and the star was a sign of the fulfillment of that promise. The countless shining stars at night–one for each man–now show the burning hope of all mankind.” Santa gently laid the star upon the fireplace mantle and drew forth from the bag a glittering red Christmas tree ornament.
“Teach the children red is the first color of Christmas. It was first used by the faithful people to remind them of the blood which was shed for all the people by the Savior. Christ gave His life and shed his blood that every man might have God’s gift of Eternal Life. Red is deep, intense, vivid–it is the greatest color of all. It is the symbol of the gift of God.”
“Teach the children,” he said as he dislodged a small Christmas tree from the depths of the toy bag. He placed it before the mantle and gently hung the red ornament on it. The deep green of the fir tree was a perfect background for the ornament. Here was the second color of Christmas.
“The pure green color of the stately fir tree remains green all year round,” he said. “This depicts the everlasting hope of mankind. Green is the youthful, hopeful, abundant color of nature. All the needles point heavenward–symbols of Man’s returning thought toward heaven. The great green tree has been man’s best friend. It has sheltered him, warmed him, made beauty for him.” Suddenly I heard a soft tinkling sound.
“Teach the children that as the lost sheep are found by the sound of the bell, it should ring for man to return to the fold–it means guidance and return, it further signifies that all are precious in the eyes of the Lord. As the soft sound of the bell faded into the night, Santa drew forth a candle. He placed it on the mantle and the soft glow from its tiny flame cast a glow about the darkened room. Odd shapes in shadows slowly danced and weaved upon the walls.
“Teach the children,” whispered Santa, “that the candle shows man’s thanks for the star of long ago. Its small light is the mirror of starlight. At first candles were placed on the trees–they were like many glowing stars shining against the dark green. The colored lights have now taken over in remembrance.”
Santa turned the small Christmas tree lights on and picked up a gift from under the tree. He pointed to the large bow and said, “A bow is placed on a present to remind us of the spirit of the brotherhood of man. We should remember that the bow is tied as men should be tied, all of us together, with the bonds of good will toward each other. Good will forever is the message of the bow.”
Santa slung his bag over his shoulder and began to reach for the candy cane placed high on the tree. He unfastened it and reached out toward me with it.
“Teach the children that the candy cane represents the shepherd’s crook. The crook of the staff helps bring back the strayed sheep to the flock. The candy cane represents the helping hand we should show at Christmas time. The candy cane is the symbol that we are our brothers’ keepers.”
As Santa looked about the room a feeling of satisfaction shone on his face. He read wonderment in my eyes, and I an sure he sensed my admiration for this night.
He reached into his bag and brought forth a large holly wreath. He placed it on the door and said, “Please teach the children the wreath symbolizes the eternal nature of love; it never ceases, stops or ends. It is one continuous round of affection. The wreath does double duty. It is made of many things and in many colors. It should remind us of all the things of Christmas. Please teach the children.”
I pondered and wondered and thrilled at all those symbols. To give, to help, to love, and to serve…and Santa, he’s the sign of giving…that jolly old elf…and yes, I shall teach the children.
The countdown to Christmas can seem more commercial with every passing year. But did you know that behind some of the classic festive trappings lie traditions rooted in Christianity? Here, author Samantha Keller discuss three festive favorites that you might not know are actually Christian Christmas symbols.
The True Meaning Behind 3 Christian Christmas Symbols
As a parent and a follower of Jesus, I am always looking for ways to refocus my kids’ Christmas paradigm back on Christ amidst the chaos and frivolity of the holiday season. It’s easy to get caught up in the fervor of presents, parties, Christmas carols and eggnog and forget the whole reason we are celebrating to begin with. Fortunately, Christmas is steeped with Christian symbolism, and around every corner are opportunities to find Jesus and share stories of the gift of our savior. Here are some of the Christian Christmas symbols you can use as reminders of the true meaning of this holiday.
1. Candy Canes
Looking for a fun way to remind friends and family about the true meaning behind Christmas? The next time you hand out candy canes, share this story with your children.
In 1670, the Cologne Cathedral in Germany hosted a live nativity scene as a Christmas presentation. Since living nativity scenes involve real animals and are generally noisy and stinky affairs, the choirmaster, not surprisingly, struggled to keep the kids from talking too much. So he devised a plan to engage their mouths, giving them hard candy sticks. But to add significance to the small indulgence, the choirmaster requested that the local candy maker curve the simple white candy sticks into the form of a shepherd’s staff.
The structure and shape of a shepherd’s crook is purposely designed to hook around the neck to both protect the sheep from harm and lead them to greener pastures. Legend has it that the choirmaster’s idea caught on, and the tradition of passing out candy canes at living nativity scenes was borne and spread throughout Europe. The candy cane is an enjoyable treat with a powerful illustration of God’s care for his people.
Jesus reminds us, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (NIV John 10:11)
So hang the treats on the tree and cheerfully hand these Christian Christmas symbols out along with a story of the good shepherd and what he means to us as followers of Christ.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reminded my kids before the frenzy of opening presents commences, “Now, who is the greatest gift and why are we celebrating?”
“We know, Mom; Jesus is the gift.” (Insert exasperation from child.) Sound familiar?
Next time, tell the kids this little nugget. The tradition of offering gifts initiated with the European celebration of St. Nicholas Day on December 6th. In the 4th century, St. Nicholas held the role of Archbishop of Myra and faced terrible persecution for his faith. St. Nicholas inherited a fortune after the untimely death of his parents at a young age, and spent most of his life quietly and anonymously giving it away.
After his death on December 6th, stories were passed down regarding his benevolence and generosity. By the 12th century, the act of giving gifts anonymously caught on throughout Europe in honor of his goodwill.
While many countries in Europe still celebrate St. Nicholas Day, in the United States, the celebration of this day was merged with Christmas. As the two holidays closely resemble one another, it was a natural union since Christmas represents God’s gift to the world and the Wise Men also offered gifts to the baby Jesus.
Our modern-day Santa Claus is actually a symbol of St. Nicholas, who was renowned for his unselfish generosity and example of biblical giving. Proverbs 18:6 states, “A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.” And Although Hollywood has morphed Santa Claus into a jolly old man with flying reindeer and magic, the true compassion and giving nature of St. Nick, a true servant of Christ, needs to be shared and modeled to our children. In our home, we have a beautiful storybook explaining who the real man was behind the red suit and his love for Jesus and eternal life in Christ.
Ever wonder why you get to sneak a kiss under the mistletoe? This endearing Christmas tradition involves hanging a small clipping of mistletoe greenery resplendent with berries above a doorway or walkway and when two people stand under the mistletoe, at the same time, they are supposed to offer one another a kiss of affection. Now, I adore any excuse to kiss my loved ones, but I never really knew where the ritual originated from.
Upon researching, I discovered mistletoe is actually an aerial parasite with no roots of its own. It’s terribly unglamorous. The parasite gloms onto the tree to which it attaches itself and, without that tree, it dies. Hmmm, this story sounds familiar … very similar to our relationship with Christ. And this is exactly where the metaphor takes root.
Mistletoe symbolizes the love we are able to offer to others only because of Christ who “first loves us.” (1 John 4:19) And yes, we are the parasites.
Just as mistletoe may not recognize the tree which gives it life, humanity may not acknowledge the enduring love of God that sustains them. But if mistletoe is removed from the tree, or any person becomes devoid of God’s love, both cease to live.
As far as the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe, this practice began in ancient Greece during the festival of Saturnalia, and later moved into in the marriage union because of the plant’s association with fertility. Under the Roman reign, enemies at war would reconcile their differences under the berried plant as a symbol of peace.
This year, tell your kids about the true meaning of mistletoe. Be sure to let them know that the corresponding kiss is a symbol of peace, romance and the love of a Heavenly Father who we need to rely on in order to find abundant life.
This season is rich with Christian meaning if you know where to look. What are you favorite Christian Christmas symbols?
You may also be interested in Finding Quiet Time For Reflection During The Busy Holiday Season
All about the symbols of Christmas and their meaning. Learn the symbols of Christmas and what they mean.
Do you know what all the symbols of Christmas are? It’s easy to forget that all the lights, tinsel, and presents have a reason for being a part of Christmas. Bells, stars, evergreen trees, wreaths, angels, holly, and even Santa Claus are a magical part of Christmas because of their symbolism and special meaning. Each Christmas season, I try to teach a little of this holiday symbolism to my kidlets. There’s no wrong way to teach it. Sometimes it’s just while we decorate. I try to find teaching moments to share the meaning of Christmas with them. For me, knowing there is a deeper meaning to all of the holiday hubbub brings me greater purpose and greater peace during Christmas.
*This post is sponsored by Wendell August. All thoughts, opinions, and ideas are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that may help us actually pay back some school debt :). Enjoy!
I believe that knowing the true reason for Christmas brings more meaning in my life. It gives the holidays a purpose as I am consciously aware of what all the beautiful Christmas symbols are around. me. I believe in Jesus Christ. I am a Christian and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I find great peace in knowing about a Savior who loves all and gave His life for all of us. Because of this, Christmas is a special time of year for me. It’s more than just a day to get presents and give them away–instead it is a time for me to reflect on loving others like Jesus did and prioritizing the true things that matter in my heart. If you want to check out the awesome idea to help other people at Christmas, check out the #LightTheWorld initiative and see how you can make the world a better place in little, but significant ways. So let’s talk about the symbols of Christmas and learn more about them.
One of the ways I try to teach my kids the symbols of Christmas is to fill my house with them. I ordered these beautiful pewter handcrafted ornaments from Wendell August. They are made in the USA and come are dressed up in little boxes. Each ornament has the meaning of the the Christmas symbol on the back. I loved them at first sight. A perfect way to add the true spirit of the season to our Christmas tree.
10 Symbols of Christmas and What They Mean
1. Angels The angels proclaimed the news of the Savior’s birth. They sang, “Glory to God in the highest” and proclaimed the good news on that first Christmas night.2. Bells Bells ring out to guide lost sheep back to the fold. The Christmas bell signifies that all are precious in His eyes and He will help you.3. Evergreen Trees The evergreen Christmas tree stays green all year and reminds us of the everlasting hope and life eternal. Because of Jesus Christ we can have eternal life. It also points up to heaven reminding us to look to God in all things.4. Gifts The Christmas gift reminds us of how God gave us the gift of His Son and that Jesus Christ gave us the greatest gift of all. Giving gifts is meant to be a symbol of love and kindness and remembrance of the gift of eternal life made possible by the Savior.5. Holly The holly plant represents immortality, as well as the crown of thorns worn by our Savior. The red holly berries represent the blood shed by Him for us.6. Wreath The Christmas wreath is a symbol of the never ending love of God–having no beginning and no ending. Wreaths are in circles made with evergreen which symbolizes eternal life. 7. Santa Claus St. Nicholas went from home to home giving gifts and celebrating the Savior by showing love as he did. He wears red, the first color of Christmas. He brings good will and love to all, like the Savior. 8. Candles The Christmas candle reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world. He is the light we should follow and through Him we will find our way in the darkness of life. 9. Candy Cane The candy cane is in the shape of a shepherd’s crook used to bring lost lambs back to the fold. The Savior is often thought of as the Good Shepherd, guiding us back to His fold. The white on the candy cane represents the purity of Jesus, and the red stripes symbolize the blood He shed for us. 10. Star The Christmas star represents the first star of Bethlehem that shone on the night Jesus was born. It also symbolizes the Christ is the light of the world and is a shining hope to all mankind. Did I forget any symbols of Christmas? What other ones can you think of?
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Ampersand Design – 20 reasons you should have an & in your home decor
If you’ve been making the rounds on the interior design blogosphere lately (like we have), then you have almost certainly run into some magnificent ampersand design decor pieces. It didn’t take more than a glance for us to get excited about this latest decor trend, which means, of course, that we had to do some digging and put together an inspirational blog for our readers about this fabulous symbol.
While trendy, the ampersand is also used as an expression of symbolism that can differ from person to person. Traditionally, of course, the ampersand is a symbol representing “and,” but to most who use it in their home decor, an “&” means much more than that.
The most common symbolism of an ampersand in interior home design is as a symbol of commitment: “You & Me.” You’ve probably seen ampersands in wedding decor as well. It shows that two people are joined — they are each others’ “and,” meaning there is not one without the other.
A more traditional view of the ampersand is that it is a broken infinity sign, reminding us that nothing lasts forever, but that there is always more to come.
For a few clever wordsmiths, publishers, and graphic designers, using an ampersand in home design is a nod of typographical appreciation to words, letters, and fonts.
Many see & as a symbol of family, as in “You &…” and consider it a closer and more intimate relationship to others than “and” spelled out, i.e.: “Me & You” vs. “Me and You” has less distance between the two words.
To some, the meaning is religious, meaning to love God & others. It may also mean to some that nothing lasts forever except the love of God.
Some consider the ampersand design a symbol of discovery.
“And – I am not finished. There is always more.” -Jeanier Hondes
“Seems as though we build and construct everything thinking it will last a lifetime, yet it rarely does, leaving us ever-confused. An ampersand gives us hope that there is always an ‘and.’” – Unknown
Others, still, may see the ampersand as a reminder to listen to both your heart & soul.
With the explosion of ampersand design, there’s also been a flood of DIY ampersand home decor, including this homemade Hollywood marquee sign style ampersand for a mantle.
Or this DIY ampersand made of gold thumbtacks.
An ampersand can make a lovely addition to a gallery wall.
A masterfully sculpted thin ampersand in gold shows style and class.
Or maybe you like to show off your ampersand in a quirky art eco print.
Wall art, decor pieces, decorative pillows — it seems there are few places that an ampersand can’t squeeze into.
Where does an “&” fit into your home decor, and what does it mean to you?
We find symbols everywhere and some are more understandable than others. We know the instant we see a symbol if we understand it’s meaning without even thinking about it. Consider this washroom sign for instance.
Now consider the same meaning for these signs.
Yes, it’s funny, but you are not as quick to recongnize it’s meaning.
Over the years I’ve just assumed most people are aware of the common symbolic meaning behind most motifs and patterns used when decorating. Most motifs are used in fabrics, tiles, trim and furnishings which have been reinvented from historical use.
Most of the motifs below could possibly be found in one room, but it’s unlikely. That would be a real hodge podge of heavy duty symbolic pattern. Based on it’s symbolism you may have a bias against the Fleur de Lis for instance and refuse to have anything to do with it in your home. But, that’s not what we are talking about here. The main thing to avoid is clashing the symbolic nature of a design element and it’s repetitive motif against another. For instance it’s perfectly acceptable to have Egg-and-Dart moulding, a thistle flower on a toss cushion and an area rug with a greek key border. Avoid having too many animal inspired design elements or your decor may resemble a zoo. Don’t place more than two repetitive architectural elements in a room. For instance avoid Greek Key around the fireplace box, Egg-and-Dart moulding and a quatrefoil shaped windows unless you’re trying to mimic a cathedral. Some types of motifs are so steeped in tradition that they will instantly time travel you and your guests to another century or transport you to another destination. Moderation and balance is key when decorating with symbolic motifs.
So, if you’re not sure about the symbolic meaning and how they are used in our contemporary settings here are the top ten.
10. The pineapple is the universal symbol for hospitality which has extended itself as a form of saying “Welcome”. Ever notice how many hotels, especially in western Europe and the Caribbean use this symbol? The pineapple commonly appears as door knockers and welcome mats. The origins of the symbolic pineapple are said to go back to Christopher Columbus who first brought back the prized fruit from the Caribbean to Spain. Giving pineapples as a hostess gift was so revered that people tried growing them everywhere they could. Pineapples require very rich soil and it was found that the Azores grew the tastiest and larger pineapples than anywhere in the Caribbean. Hence Europe became the fastest growing market for the yellow fruit. The pineapple pattern is making it’s rounds again as a popular print too.
9. The Fleur de Lis has had many interpretations likely from as early as Babylon. The unequivocally French symbol, which, translated, means “flower of the lily,” took hold in the 12th century when the French monarchy adopted it. Traditionally, it has been used to represent French Royalty, and it is said to signify perfection, light, and life.
8. The Bumble Bee as depicted in modern day has been long associated with Napoleon because he selected the bee as a means to distance himself from previous serving French monarchs’ Fleur De Lis symbol. Many have speculated the reason for it’s choosing but for his armies the bee became symbolic of hard work and community which Napoleon had campaigned on. The Napoleonic bee is always shown viewed from above, guilded with gold and with it’s wings spread out and often within a laurel wreath.
7. Thistle flower or as some of us refer to it as a weed is the Scottish national emblem. Hardy, yes. Beautiful? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It stands along the Scottish motto: “Nemo me impune lacessit,” roughly translated “no one harms me without punishment.” The Thistle was reborn during the Arts and Crafts period by one of the leaders of the movement – William Morris. His original floral inspired wallpapers and fabrics can still be purchased today through his family run estate.
Thistle design table runner Thistle toss pillow Blue and white thistle pattern shower curtain Thistle knit throw Thistle design fabrics on bedding Black and white Morris thistle design pattern
6. Egg and Dart is a classical ornamental design often carved in wood, stone, or plaster quarter-round ovolo mouldings, consisting of an egg-shaped object alternating with an element shaped like an arrow, anchor or dart. I think one of the reasons it’s lived on and still popular today is because of it’s traditional but simple, elegant repeat. The egg-and-dart motif is still seen mostly in wood carving and inlay.
5. Greek Key is a decorative border constructed from a continuous line, shaped into a repeated motif. The Greek Key design is one of the most significant symbols in ancient Greece. The motif is a decorative element in Greek and Roman stone work and it is used to present day. The Greek Key motif symbol was very important in Greece because it identified infinity, unity, bonds of friendship, of love and devotion. It was common to give the motif or a representation of it as a form of a marriage gift due to it’s symbolism. Today we like it’s contemporary squared lines for it’s simplicity and can find the partial elements of the Greek key in furniture, wall decor and flooring related materials.
4. Peacock and Peacock feathers. Peacocks replace their feathers annually. The ancients believed a dead peacock’s flesh did not decay, these proud birds and their feathers have long symbolized renewal and immortality. Perhaps a reason for some cultures to regard the peacock feather as symbolic of the Guru. Though popular for centuries, peacock feathers became a mainstay motif in the Art Nouveau era, which followed the Arts and Crafts movement circa 1910. We often refer to the saying, “proud as a peacock”. Obvisouly the idea of pride and beauty come into play when refering to it’s symbolism.
3. Elephants have been the subject of various cultural depictions in popular culture, mythology and symbolism. They are revered for their power and prowess. In our society we think of elephants as having good memories, which has been scientifically proven and through commercial popularity we often refer to “the elephant in the room”. Elephants have gained our respect and imagination because of it’s unaggressive nature while still being able to move and remove real and perceived obstacles.
Elephant table top server Elephant love wallpaper Elephant art print Global inspired elephant graphic The orange elephant in the bathroom The elephant in the room
2. The shape of the quatrefoil can be found in many places, such as in home decor, in architecture, and on churches or buildings. It can also be found in jewelry and as symbols of organizations. Since it is easy to divide a quatrefoil into equal portions or into other shapes, it has also come to symbolize harmony, symmetry, and proportion. The quatrefoil resembles a four leaf clover, often regarded as a source of good luck to whomever finds one.
Quatrefoil design lamp stand Quatrefoil design fabric toss pillow Quatrefoil dining chair Quatrefoil coffee table Quatrefoil pattern chest Popular quatrefoil mirror frame
1. Chinese knot – meaning never ending. The Mystic Knot is one of the most often used symbols of Feng Shui. Being a combination of six times the infinity symbol, this feng shui knot symbolizes a long and happy life full of good fortune. Mystic knot is sometimes referred to as the endless knot, because it looks like it swallows its own tail. Although not a popular decorative motif in North America other European and Asia countries have and continue to use it as part of their home decor. Of course many parts of North America have adopted the Feng Shui belief which share many of the good design disciplines of interior design.
Infinite knot pillow Chinese inspired knot wallpaper Chinese knot metal lock Vintage Chinese knotting work on ceramic Chinese knot tassels Intricate Chinese knot inspired lamp
There are many more historical motifs and patterns but I have mentioned some of the most popular today. As you can imagine overly mixing these patterns and motifs may not be a good idea. In addition some icons may have a symbolic meaning you might not want to convey while others you would proudly display.
Did you have a favorite? Did a motif have a surprising symbolism? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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Decorating the Christmas tree is one of the most enjoyable traditions associated with the winter holidays, and both the setting up and taking down of the tree have their specific dates: 23 December (the first Day of Christmas) or 24 December (Christmas Eve), respectively 5 January (Twelfth Night).
Although the Christmas tree is typically decorated in red and white, the coloring can vary greatly depending on taste and traditions. Each color and each decoration is thought to have a special significance, and lots of people choose their ornaments based on the legends out there.
Getting familiar with these symbols is a great way to rediscover the true meaning of Christmas, and to understand what’s actually celebrated on December 25.
Christmas tree as a symbol
Long time ago, the evergreens were worshiped as symbols of immortality in pagan cultures, and used for warding off the evil spirits. However, starting year 700, the pagan tree was replaced by a fir tree which was considered a symbol of Christianity. Responsible for this change was Saint Boniface, who converted the Germans to Christianity.
During the 11th century, the tree became a symbol of the tree of Paradise, and people started decorating it with red apples. Four centuries later, around the year 1500, Martin Luther brought a tree indoor, and decorated it with candles in honor of Christ’s birth, and starting that moment, people began bringing the trees indoor and decorating them with lights and apples. Still, the custom of decorating a Christmas tree was established in the 18th century, being more common in France, Austria and Germany.
Among Christians, the green tree was thought to symbolize eternal life in Christ, while the red color of apples and of holly were considered symbols of the blood of Jesus. The Holly then started being attached to the tree’s branches, this shrub representing immortality and being a symbol of the crown of thorns worn by Christ on the cross.
Candles continued being used as decorations for the tree, symbolizing Christ as the Light of the World. Although in time the candles were replaced by electric lights, the significance remained the same. However, in Ireland, candles have a slightly different story: during the Penal Times, it was illegal to celebrate Christmas, so catholic priests, expelled from the country, had to travel in secret during night time and celebrate Mass in people’s homes. Those who were willing to host the priests would place candles in the windows and leave the doors unlocked, so that priests could come in, pray with them and spend the night in a secure place.
What about the tinsel? Legend says a poor family wished to embellish their Christmas tree in honor of Jesus, but had no decorations. During the night, a spider spun webs across the tree, and Christ Child turned those threads into silver, to honor the family’s faith.
The star placed on the top of the tree represents the star that guided the Wise Men to Jesus Child in Bethlehem. Lots of people prefer decorating the tree with an angel instead of a star, this being a symbol of the angel who announced Christ’s birth.
These are the meanings of the most common decorations used for the Christmas tree, but the other items we use today have their significance as well, so let’s find out what the bells, baubles and gifts offered at Christmas symbolize.
Christmas decorations and their meaning
For lots of people, Christmas is about giving and receiving gifts, and the initial significance of this gesture is no longer important. Still, if you want to rediscover the true meaning of this holly day and celebrate Christmas for what it actually symbolizes, it’s worth remembering that the gifts are a symbol of the myrrh, frankincense and gold brought by the wise men to Christ Child, in Bethlehem.
The bells attached to the branches of the Christmas tree represent the Joy of this day, but also Jesus as the High Priest. Jewish priests used to wear a blue robe under the ephod, and golden bells were attached to the hem of this robe.
Initially, the apples used for decorating the Christmas tree represented the forbidden fruits, but later the fruits offered for Christmas received the significance of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. The baubles are a lighter replacement for apples, but their meaning is pretty much the same, and the Nativity Scene or Manger Scene represents the scene of Jesus’ birth.
The candy cane shaped like a shepherd’s crook symbolizes the Good Shepherd, and the poinsettia flowers, through their shape, remind of the star of Bethlehem. The wreath symbolizes true love, which never ceases, while the gingerbread man is a symbol of God’s creation – the gingerbread man does not create himself, it’s created, and its typical color reminds of the color of earth.
Although different traditions and decorations have been created around the world and in lots of houses this season is associated more with Santa and presents, the meaning of Christmas shouldn’t be lost. Besides being a time of great joy, it’s also the day when we celebrate Christ’s birth, so let us all remember this.
Christmas is the richest holiday in terms of sacred and profane symbolism, all intersected throughout centuries until they became an indissoluble and indistinguishable one. All Christmas symbols and the habits related to each one were preserved form generation to generation. From the Nativity to the tree, from the mistletoe to the Advent Wreath, from the holly to the Panettone, all merge together to create a unique atmosphere, whose meaning is often forgotten when looking at the whole, but that can only spread among everyone.
The Nativity is maybe the most important symbol for catholics. From the stories of Evangelists Luke and Matthew, who described the Nativity, an immense mistery comes out: a God that chooses to become a man to descent among his Sons and lead them to Salvation, all enclosed in an apparently common event, in its semplicity, as the birth of a child in a starry night.
The Christmas tree
The Christmas tree has instead pagan origins. It is a symbol for life that renovates itself and that’s why it is usually an evergreen tree. During Medieval times, the first Christmas trees were decorated with paper flowers, fresh and dry fruits, and other symbols for wealth, to recall the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. Later, people began to decorate Christmas trees with candles, symbols for Advent and for the Savior that defeats the darkness of sin, and place them inside their houses.
The Advent wreath
Also the Christmas candle symbolically recalls Jesus as bringer of light and salvation, while the four candles of the Advent wreath are on one side a reference to ancient pagan traditions connected to light, and on the other side they are symbols respectively for Prophets, Betlehem, Shepherds and Angels. The lighting of each candle corresponds to a moment of prayer.
The habit of exchanging gifts on Christmas is probably of Roman origins: Romans used to exchange gifts on New Year’s Eve and during other strennas feasts, from the name of the sabine goddess Strenna. At the beginning they were auspicious laurel, olive or fig twigs, but they were soon replaced by actual gifts. Inside the Christian sphere, the gifts exchange is associated with the symbology of god that gives his only Child to men.
Santa Claus brings gifts to children during the night between December 24th and 25th. He can be associated with several characters present in many cultures all over the world, even if the closest seems to be Saint Nicolas. He was bishop of Myra and performed some miracles that allowed him to save some children. Only at the beginning of the 19th Century he began to be represented dressed in red and with a long beard, while in the 20th Century American advertising agencies made that the official representation we all know.
The Christmas log symbolically represents the Tree of Life and the salvation brought by Christ: with that, people heated up their homes to make them more comfortable on the event of his coming.
Lastly, mistletoe is considered to be auspicious. It grows on other trees trunks, has no roots to the ground, and its white berries grow in nine months, as a human child, gathering in groups of three, sacred number in many cultures. In ancient time it was believed to be healing for any sickness, and if hanged outside the house, it would grant prosperity and wealth.