Holiday Symbols

    • Check your nursery for stocking stuffers: kids’ gloves, watering cans, bonsai figurines, seeds and bulbs.
    • Spray for peach leaf curl with copper sulfate. Peach and nectarine trees may suffer from this fungus disease without a protective spray.
    • Water living Christmas trees frequently while they are indoors, and put them outside after two weeks.
    • Wind chimes make wonderful gifts that fill the air with music whenever the wind blows.

Living Holiday Symbols

December is a very special time of year. Food and gifts, music and lights, warmth and love surround us. The clans will gather and cherished traditions will be shared.

Some of our traditions go back centuries or even millennia. Two hundred years before the birth of Christ, the Druids used mistletoe to celebrate the coming of winter. They would gather this parasitic evergreen plant and use it to decorate their homes. They believed the plant had special healing powers. Scandinavians also gathered mistletoe and thought of it as a plant of peace and harmony.

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 colored paper. It is believed that Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, was the first to light a Christmas tree with candles.

The poinsettia is a relatively recent Christmas symbol. Mexican legend holds that these beautiful red flowers, thought to resemble the shape of the Star of Bethlehem, first grew miraculously for a poor child who wanted to bring a gift to the manger scene at the village church but did not have any money. They were introduced to the United States in the early 19th century by Joel Poinsett, the first United States ambassador to Mexico.

Representing immortality and seen as a good omen, holly was considered sacred by the ancient Romans and used as a gift during the festival of Saturnalia. Gradually, holly became a Christmas symbol as Christianity became the dominant religion. Because the holly leaf has sharp, pointed edges, it has come to represent Jesus’ crown of thorns with the red berries representing the blood He shed on the cross.

Jewish traditions give special importance to fruiting plants which gave sustenance to the people. Thus wheat, barley, grapevines, figs, pomegranates and olive trees have special significance. These are plants that come from the dry climate of the Mediterranean region.

Of course, many of the symbols that are part of our traditions at this time of year come from ancient Solstice celebrations. At the Solstice, with the days at last turning a corner towards spring, evergreen leaves long ago took on a special significance. Greenery brought indoors in the depths of winter became a symbol of continuing growth and rebirth. The Yule Log, traditionally oak, acknowledged the return of the sun, warmth and light and the long-burning log would bring good luck if lit on the first try.

This year as we gather together to celebrate the holidays and their symbols of hope and love, let us enjoy the light and warmth that we give to each other at this time and throughout the year.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.