The Symbolism of Christmas Tree Decorations
Christmas Tree Symbolism: Is there a deeper meaning behind your holiday tree?
Decorating for Christmas is an art form that has been evolving for centuries. While the modern Christmas tree tradition may have roots in pagan winter solstice celebrations, Christmas tree symbolism can be interpreted differently depending on your culture and faith group.
Christians believe that the Christmas tree symbolizes Jesus's death at Calvary. On the other hand, some people think it represents God's love or serves as a reminder to celebrate Christmases' past by remembering loved ones who are no longer with us this year.
Others say it stands as an evergreen sign of hope during dark days. But, whatever meaning you attach to the Christmas tree, there is one thing we can all agree on: they're simply beautiful!
Christmas tree symbolism around the world
The Christmas tree has many symbolic meanings for people of different cultures. It's hard to pinpoint an exact meaning simply because trees have held an important place in so many ancient cultures and religions.
The Romans adorned their temples with evergreens during the Saturnalia festival, and Ancient Egyptians decorated their temples with green palm rushes as part of worship to Ra.
Evergreens were also used as a sign of eternal life by early Christians in catacombs under Rome. But until the mid-19th century, Christians viewed the Christmas tree as a foreign pagan custom.
Pagans would bring fir trees into their homes at Yuletide because it represented everlasting life and fertility. The Yule tree is decorated with lights, candles, and other festive ornaments to celebrate the return of light after dark days.
The Druids believed trees were a gift from the Mother Goddess, as they helped mark time and seasons. They would decorate sacred oak trees with mistletoe and lights to represent the wisdom of life.
The Vikings worshipped trees, particularly the Scandinavian evergreens. They considered the evergreen to be the sun god's unique plant. The trees were a reminder of spring, and that winter would come to an end, and the world would turn green again.
In old Germanic and Norse beliefs, evergreen trees were often decorated with tiny carvings of gods and food. These decorations were to entice tree spirits to return and bring spring with them.
In Germany, it was considered a midwinter symbol that brought good luck during the farming seasons. Not that far off from the Viking's way of thinking!
The common thread behind these beliefs is that winter will end and rebirth, or spring, will return. So it's a moment to pause, acknowledge the darkness and look with hope towards the coming light.
What do Christmas ornaments symbolize?
While pagans may have popularized the Christmas tree, Germans are credited for beginning the tradition of decorating them.
One legend tells us that Martin Luther started it when he walked home one winter evening after dark. The stars in the sky gave him the idea to light candles on a tree and decorate it with gold and silver ornaments.
Another legend tells us that Martin Luther's wife, Katie, was responsible for starting this custom. On Christmas Eve, she placed paper roses in their windows as decorations. When he saw them, Luther went outside and cut down a small fir tree, which he brought inside and decorated with roses.
Today, people choose to decorate their Christmas trees with a variety of ornaments that represent different themes, including:
- family memories
- holiday traditions
- religious symbols such as crosses and angels
- objects from nature like pine cones and berries
- candy canes
- colorful balls
- images of Santa Claus
With so many choices, it's no wonder that some families decorate more than one tree at home each year!
Is there a universal meaning behind the Christmas tree?
Regardless of your faith or culture, the Christmas tree is a beautiful tradition that we can all enjoy and celebrate. It is a symbol of hope and new beginnings. It brings people together and gives them a place to gather with loved ones, to share stories of past Christmases, and plan for future ones. There is no denying its symbolic significance!
So what do you think? Is there any symbolism for your Christmas tree decorations that you would like to share? Let us know!