Deck the Halls: The Spiritual Meaning of Traditional Christmas Decorations

Buddy the Elf may say that the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear… but I think he’s wrong. In our house, the best way to spread Christmas cheer is through decorating — and when one knows the deeper meaning behind certain decorations, it brings a much deeper meaning to the joy of the season!

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Poinsettia

– The shape of the flowers resembles the Star of Bethlehem. Just as the Star led the Wise Men to Christ, the poinsettia serves as a reminder for us to follow the things which lead to Him.

-Each color flower reminds us of something different. Red reminds us of God’s blood shed for our salvation (made possible by his entrance into the world). White reminds us of God’s purity and sinless nature which made him a worthy sacrifice. Pink/speckled remind us of the blood and water that gushed forth from the side of the crucified Jesus, symbolizing his Divine Mercy.

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Holly & Ivy (like the English Christmas Carol)

-Tradition holds that the wood of the Cross was a type of holly bush. The points of the leaves represent the crown of thorns, and the berries (not pictured) represent the drops of blood he shed.

-No matter what the season, ivy is green all year round – a symbol of everlasting life we have in Christ. It also clings to whatever structure upon which it grows and relies entirely on that structure for its growth. Likewise we, the ivy, must cling to Christ in the sacraments of his established Church which he left for us in this world so that we might also grow and have eternal life.

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Christmas Tree

-According to legend, St. Boniface (sent to modern day Germany as a missionary) came across Germanic pagans worshiping a giant Oak tree which they believed to be a house of Thor, the god of thunder. Boniface grabbed an ax and chopped the tree down right then and there. The pagans were amazed when Thor did not destroy the monk immediately, and Boniface took that opportunity to evangelize those peoples. They all converted to Christianity. The following year, an evergreen tree sprouted from the stump of the oak. The people took this to be a symbol of the one, true God. Just as as the leaves of the evergreen do not die, all of mankind has everlasting life in Christ.

Before Pope Benedict XVI became “emeritus,” he spoke some beautiful, reflective words one Christmas as the tree was raised in Vatican Square. He said,

“With its loftiness, its [green] color and the lights in its branches, the Christmas tree is a symbol of life that points to the mystery of Christmas Eve.”

In other words, Christmas trees remind us that the God of the universe became man to give us eternal life and guidance. The tree is meant to serve as a reminder of the hope and splendor which the Divine child brought into a world full of frost and darkness.

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Candy Cane

-If you haven’t picked up on the theme of the colors yet, when it comes to Christmas, the colors red, white and green all mean the same thing no matter what piece of decoration they’re included in. Red symbolizes the blood of Christ. Green symbolizes both new and eternal life. Lastly, white symbolizes innocence and purity. In addition, when it comes to the candy cane, there is some additional meaning. It is in the shape of a Shepherd’s crook, symbolizing that Jesus is our Good Shepherd. When turned upside down, the candy cane makes the shape of the letter “J” – pointing us to the holy name of Jesus. Lastly, it’s hard consistency symbolizes the firm foundation upon which Christ built his Church, as well as the reliability of Christ’s promises.

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Christmas Wreath

– Being a circle, it has no beginning and no end, symbolizing both the “eternality” of God and the immortality of the soul.

-Each type of evergreen has a different meaning. Balsam represents eager anticipation (perfect for advent). Fir indicates that we are all lifted up by God’s grace. Spruce represents hope in adversity (which when you think of what Mary and Joseph went through during the entire 9 months seems rather appropriate for the season). Cedar, which it’s pungent fragrance, indicates the incorruptibility and healing we find in Christ. Juniper, being a prickly evergreen, symbolizes God’s protection of his people. Lastly, the pine cones, berries, nuts and seed pods all represent the new life we gain through the Resurrection of Christ.

Who knew that each piece of traditional decor had so much spiritual meaning? What are your favorite items to decorate with?

 

 

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