Thursday, December 13, 2007

The symbols and traditions of Christmas








The Christmas Tree

The Christmas Tree originated in Germany in the 16th century. It was common for the Germanic people to decorate fir trees, both inside and out, with roses, apples, and coloured paper. It is believed that Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, was the first to light a Christmas tree with candles. While coming home one dark winter's night near Christmas, he was struck with the beauty of the starlight shining through the branches of a small fir tree outside his home. He duplicated the starlight by using candles attached to the branches of his indoor Christmas tree. The Christmas tree was not widely used in Britain until the 19th century. It was brought to America by the Pennsylvania Germans in the 1820's.





Xmas

This abbreviation for Christmas is of Greek origin. The word for Christ in Greek is Xristos. During the 16th century, Europeans began using the first initial of Christ's name, "X" in place of the word Christ in Christmas as a shorthand form of the word. Although the early Christians understood that X stood for Christ's name, later Christians who did not understand the Greek language mistook "Xmas" as a sign of disrespect.





The Candy Cane

In the late 1800's a candy maker in Indiana wanted to express the meaning of Christmas through a symbol made of candy. He came up with the idea of bending one of his white candy sticks into the shape of a Candy Cane. He incorporated several symbols of Christ's love and sacrifice through the Candy Cane. First, he used a plain white peppermint stick. The colour white symbolizes the purity and sinless nature of Jesus. Next, he added three small stripes to symbolize the pain inflicted upon Jesus before His death on the cross. There are three of them to represent the Holy Trinity. He added a bold stripe to represent the blood Jesus shed for mankind. When looked at with the crook on top, it looks like a shepherd's staff because Jesus is the shepherd of man. If you turn it upside down, it becomes the letter J symbolizing the first letter in Jesus' name. The candy maker made these candy canes for Christmas, so everyone would remember what Christmas is all about.

2 comments:

Anastasia said...

Now, that's a coincidence! I've been surfing the Net to find info about the origins of the Christmas tree to provide reading material for our Christmas activities.

Here's what I got:

It is from Germany that we today get many of our customs, songs, images of Santa, pine trees and European hand blow glass ornaments.
How these traditions traveled to England is interesting. Queen Victoria often visited relatives in Germany in the town of Coburg and while there she fell in love with a young Prince Albert. After they got married they returned to England to raise their family.
The tree that Price Albert provided his family was admired by all in England. This tree was decorated in the finest of hand blown glass ornaments. Since everyone liked the Queen they copied her Christmas customs including the Christmas tree and ornaments.
A F.W. Woolworth brought the glass ornament tradition to the United States in 1890. From 1870's to 1930's, Germans made the finest molds for making ornaments with nearly 5,000 different molds at the time. At the turn of the century there were over one hundred small cottage glass blowing workshops in Europe. Today only two respected German factory teams are capable of producing ornaments to the precise specifications of the Christopher Radko collection.
During the hayday of turn of the century ornament making, almost all ornaments were made in Lauscha, a small town nested in the Thuringian mountains. After the war, however, glass ornament production declined. Many of the craftsmen left for West Germany. Quantity rather than quality, was the Communist management philosophy. Some old molds fell into disrepair and many others were left to collect dust or were lost.

In the 1960's it was fashionable to have an Aluminum tree and all the same shape and color ornaments. Many threw away the old ornaments from Germany.

It was in the 1980's that Christopher Radko brought back the old art of making the glass ornaments for all to enjoy.

Would you mind me using some of your info as well ?

Anastasia said...

I'm afraid my comment went to the wrong place!Sorry about that. It was meant to be on the origins of the Christmas Tree - the previous post I think.