Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Traditions and Symbols

I receive a million catalogues at this time of the year and most of the time I ignore them. One, however, the Bronner’s catalogue, always delights me. It is a business that sells Christmas ornaments – unusual ones you can’t find just anywhere. I have ordered from them and have been very pleased by what I received. Flipping through the catalogue, the thing that caught my attention was the discussions of the different Christmas traditions and symbols. I love minutiae and this intrigued me. So, giving full credit to Bronner’s, I wanted to relate some of them to you.

The Christmas Tree – The tree itself, being an evergreen, represents eternal life offered by faith in Christ. The star on top signifies the star that guided the Wise Men. Lights on the tree represent Christ, “the Light of the World.” The gifts beneath the tree represent God’s gift of His only begotten Son.

How the Robin Got Its Red Breast – A humble brown bird shared the stable with the Holy Family at the birth of Christ. Joseph had built a fire to warm the family but in the middle of the night the fire died down. The little brown bird flew down and fanned the embers with its wings. Being so close to the fire, the bird’s breast turned red from the heat. The breast of the Robin has been red ever since to remind us of its love and compassion for the baby Jesus.

The Christmas Spider – European legend tells of a woman who was too poor to decorate her tree. A spider that lived in her house came down on Christmas Eve and began spinning beautiful webs on the tree. The next morning when the sun’s light hit the tree, the webs turned to silver. The woman awoke to find great wealth and beauty on her tree. The spider had brought her good luck. (As an aside, I think this might be one reason we use tinsel.)

The Rooster – Legend says that the only time the rooster crowed at midnight was when Jesus was born. In Spain and Latin America “Misa del Gallo,” the Mass of the Rooster, is celebrated on Christmas Eve.

The Donkey - The donkey that carried Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday followed Him to Calvary. Unable to watch Christ crucified, the donkey turned away. The shadow of the Cross fell upon the shoulders and back of the donkey. Many donkeys today carry the Cross on their backs. (I have one of these and it is precious! The donkey does have the Cross on its shoulders and back).

The Poinsettia - This is a Mexican legend. A boy with no gift to bring to the church to lay at the Nativity met an angel. The angel told him to pick some dried weeds and take them to the church. As he put the weeds by the manager they turned into beautiful flowers – the Poinsettia. As an aside, the flower got its name from Dr. Joel Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico. He brought the flower to the United States.

The Candy Cane – The white of the candy symbolizes the purity of Christmas. The red stripes are the blood of Christ. The candy is formed in a “J” for Jesus. The hardness of the candy represents the Solid Rock – the foundation of the Church.

The Pig – In Germany, eating roasted pig on Christmas Eve will prevent evil and promote prosperity. Pigs are considered symbols of good fortune. (I have seen a lot of pig ornaments and have always wondered why you would put a pig on your Christmas Tree. Guess now I know.)

The Pickle – This is also a German tradition. The pickle brings good luck and is the last ornament placed on the tree. On Christmas morning the child who finds the pickle ornament gets an extra gift from St. Nicholas. This tradition was to encourage the children to appreciate the other ornaments before hurrying to see what St. Nicholas had left them.

At our house, we have one special ornament, from our first Christmas, that we put on the tree together. Kind of cements our love for each other and makes the promise of continuing with our love in the next year.

Does your family have a special tradition for Christmas? Do you know of any Christmas Legends or traditions that I haven’t listed?


  1. I don't know any other legends, but I have a little brass pig ornament I bought when I lived in Germany. :-)

    My traditions are new now because I have a new life. I'm still not sure exactly what they're going to be. It's all still a work in progress.

    I'm going to have to check out this Bronner's catalogue. Sounds interesting. My favorite is Signals. They have the neatest things.


  2. Hey PM. I love the Signals catalogue too! Ok, so you got a brass pig ornament in Germany - guess it's something I had never heard of until now. Make your new traditions with those grandchildren! Have fun this year as you start something special!

  3. I'm not one for looking at catalogues anymore, Cheryl. I used to but don't have the time now. We love looking at the Swiss Colony catalogue and used to order from it regularly at Christmas. But we don't anymore.

    We open one gift on Christmas Eve after the Christmas Eve service. Now that my family is so scattered, I'm not sure how we're going to do that this year or if we can have everyone here at that time.

    Many people used to wait and put up their trees on Christmas Eve. I know my grandparents did that. They'd put up the tree on Christmas Eve and then the next morning presents appeared under it. Very cool! But I'm not sure all the work is worth having a tree for so little a time. ;)

    Thanks for sharing the legends of Christmas with us, Cheryl!

  4. I enjoy the legends and stories..I always have.

    We have no old time traditions, except maybe the stockings hung on the mantle with care(and if there isn't one-on a couch). We make cookies (Sugar plums) together.

    Its not much, but I look forward to it with my family.

  5. Enjoyed the article! My grandson gave me a Christmas rooster made at 2nd grade level this year and I had no idea what it meant. Your article helped educate me! Some of our traditions include... Santa starts peeking at night to check in on the children.. they run to door to see if Santa left something for them.. usually a Christmas pen or pencil/book, etc they will find. This year a new tradition started as my sister mailed Elf on a Shelf to us from Santa! The kids have to name thier own elf and find him in the morning after he goes magically at night back to give a report to Santa. He is named Fred and normally brings a small gift. Books have been this year. Another tradition we have is to go to our local outdoor walking mall, center court and watch the Christmas tree lighting of the symphony orchestra set to music with 240,000 lights. There is a "snowfall" (in Florida!) and fireworks after the first lighting. It goes off every hour on the hour until New Years and is beautiful. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I'll check out the catalog that you mentioned!

  6. Funny reading this because I pick an ornament with a legend and give to each of my neighbors. I tried to tie my christmas card and family picture to it. Last year, the donkey ornament, a card with a donkey (that proceeds went to a donkey sancutary abroad)and our picture in front of a old barn! Have done the pickle, candy cane, cardinal. I am looking for next years already!