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Christmas Symbols: Christmas Isn't Christmas Without These...
Celebrate the Joy of Christmas
Christmas Isn't Christmas--Children's Choir
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Christmas is a joyous occasion, that’s for sure. Hosts of angels filled the midnight sky with happy announcement of the birth of Christ two thousand years ago. Stately eastern kings transversed distances to bring gifts to the Majesty. That single birth has sprouted many Christmas traditions today—gift-giving, carol singing, midnight worship, Christmas trees and twinkling lights to celebrate the occasion. Food, songs, activities grew around the Christmas theme. Different regions develop their own brand of celebrations and they have been around for a long time.
What makes Christmas special for you? What puts you in the mood for the festive season? For some, it’s driving down the street with houses dressed in Christmas lights. For others, schlepping home a Christmas tree signals the beginning of the season. Yet others usher in the season with holiday cookies, scented candles or egg nog. Some families observe the advent story of Jesus, counting the days down to the actual day with stories of His birth. Others believe in filling up the space under the Christmas trees with gifts. For me, Christmas isn’t Christmas without the following…
Jesus, the Reason for the Season
For some people, Christmas has too much of a religious feel. There shouldn’t be a religious emphasis…they reason. For me, Christmas is linked to the historical birth of baby Jesus. That was the reason behind the Christmas season and will always be. That one magical night, when Christ was born to redeem lost sinners is pivotal for me. I welcome anything that celebrates that fact. When my kids were little, we would do the advent stories, anxiously counting the days till Christmas.
Christmas Carols and Songs
Whether it’s “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” or “I’ll be home for Christmas,” Christmas music sets the mood for the festive season. Once a year, Christmas music invades the mall, the radio and the home and I can’t get enough of that. What would Christmas shopping be like without the cheer of Christmas songs in the background? I can't imagine that....but I can imagine how Christmas music will enhance any Christmas activity from decorating the trees to baking cookies-- it instantly acts a magical dimension to it. Christmas music also has a way of building up the excitement to Christmas Day. Can't wait!
Unless you’re a Grinch, the chances are you’ll have a Christmas tree all decked out for Christmas. Some people prefer the fresh pine scent of a real Christmas tree, others prefer an artificial tree. Whatever the preference, Christmas trees are usually adorned with lights and ornaments to lend a festive air. The tradition of dressing trees started in Germany (some say it originated in Egypt) and soon caught on. Angels or stars are normally used to top the tree. Both ornaments have significance and they tie in with the birth of Jesus—the Star that shone that Bethlehem night and the angels who made the long-awaited announcment of salvation. Of course, the tree also provides a venue to place the presents—another tradition of Christmas.
Poinsettias are must-haves at my house, come December. With its bold green and red leaves (even though they’re often mistaken for flower), it bears the emblem of Christmas colors and add a festive air to the house. Although, poinsettias originated in Central America and were first introduced to America by Dr. Joel Poinsett (hence the name), it is now grown in all 50 states in America. Any grocery stores or nursery will carry poinsettias and the price is based on how big the plant is. Poinsettias can also come in pink and a refreshing light yellow or green.
Christmas cactus about to bloom.
You know it’s Christmas when the delicate flowers on the Christmas cactus start coming in. They’re rich in hues, ranging from magenta to fuchsia. It is also called orchid cactus and they originated in Latin America rain forests. How did this tropical cactus become part of the Christmas symbols? In parts of the world, where it is difficult to find winter evergreens like pine or fir trees, Christmas cactus is used instead. With time, we include the Christmas cactus as one of the festive plants to have around the house during Christmas.
I like candles any time of the year, but especially during Christmas. The soft glow of candles with its warmth radiates joy and cheer—like a light on a cold dark night, it’s a welcoming sight. Candles are often used in many religious ceremonies and lighting candles during Christmas is synonymous to the triumph of good over evil and it points directly to baby Jesus, born to be the Light of the world.
Apart from the light and glow aspect of using candles during Yuletide, candles can also import fragrances that evoke the smells of Christmas—cinnamon, sugar cookies, Balsam fir and more.
Three wise men came to worship baby Jesus bearing gifts—gold, frankincence and myrhh. That may be reason why gift-giving is part of the Christmas tradition. At the heart of gift-giving is sharing joy, goodwill and cheer. Whether you’re the receiver or the gifter, Christmas is a great time to show some love to friends and family. The joy on the child’s face, the trill of delight, the embrace of thanks—just the reason to give.
The nutcracker tradition is relatively new and is catching on nicely. During the month of December, many performing arts centers and theatres feature the Nutcracker ballet. In fact, it’s the most widely performed ballet in the world. They are as popular here in the United States as in Australia, Asia, Europe and Russia, the birthplace of the ballet. It sets the mood for the Christmas season and many families look forward to watching the Nutcracker as a yearly event..
The ballet version is an adaptation of the E.T.A Hoffman’s “The Nutcracker and the King Mouse.” When it initially premiered 1892 under the direction of Peter (Pyotr) Tchaikokvsky, it was not well received. It would have died a natural death if not for George Balachine, another master choreographer who produce his own version with the New York City Ballet in 1954. It became an instant hit and gradually caught on as a Christmas tradition. You can commonly find nutcracker ornaments or nutcracker dolls on sale at Christmas.
For my family, the Nutcracker takes on more meaning as my daughter has been performing in the Nutcracker for the past five years with the Southern California Youth Ballet.
Of course, this list is by no means complete. If you come to my house, you'll see all the above but it may be different for you. What makes Christmas for you?