Many homes and public places have their decorations on full display as we prepare for the most wonderful time of the year. What many do not know is that some have roots in Catholicism. Sadly, the Catholic roots have been lost or forgotten as society becomes more and more secular. Our job to ensure that we take back many of the Christian traditions.
After converting the Germans to Christianity in the early 700’s, St. Boniface demolished the Oak of Thor, the mighty sacred tree worshipped by the Saxons. It its place came a fir tree that became a symbol of Christianity.
By 1500, the tree would be brought inside and decorated with candles to honor the birth of Christ. After all, he is known as the light of the world. Two centuries later, the custom of decorating the tree grew in Germany, Austria, and France.
The tree itself represents the original Tree of Paradise, the burning bush which spoke to Moses, the branch of Jesse from which Jesus was born, the life-giving tree of the cross of Christ, and the tree which St. John the Apostle saw in the Book of Revelations whose leaves have medicine for the people and which yields fruit each month for the healing of the nations. Because it is green year-round, the evergreen tree represents hope. Its needles and its narrow crest point upward, turning our thoughts to heaven. Because the tree is cut down and then erected again, it is a symbol of Christ’s resurrection.
The candy cane is shaped like a shepherd's crook, reminding us of that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, came into our world at Christmas. If flipped the other way, it is in the shape of the letter “J”. The red symbolizes his blood shed for humanity. The stripes represent his healing power. The white represents his purification as he washed away all our sins. In general, it represents how his love grows for us every day.
In the gospel of Luke, we hear of how a choir of angels sing the Gloria as they announce the birth of Christ. Song has its origins in the bible with Miriam singing a praise to thank God for delivering his chosen people from the Egyptians. David composed the psalms that we hear at Mass and often times pray that range from petition, deliverance, and thanksgiving.
Now and days songs are used to express emotion. Belt out the Christmas carols. Nope not Rudolph, Jingle Bells, or It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas. Rather, belt out the traditional carols as they give true meaning to the Christmas season.
Stockings/ St. Nicholas
To paraphrase Buddy the Elf, “SAAAAAAAAAAINNNNNNTTTTTT NIIIIIIIICCCCCKKK! OH, MY GOODNESS, I KNOW HIM”.
Since the 1930s, St. Nick has been replaced with a non-religious jolly old fellow named Santa Claus. Yes, the man with the hat, naughty and nice list, sleigh to deliver toys, and so on.
His origins go back to Myra (modern day Turkey) where he was the 4th Bishop of that region. St. Nicholas would secretly deliver toys, clothes, and even money to the poor in need. Yet, he remained anonymous. This practice was done since he was a young boy.
He also was imprisoned during the Diocletian persecution, yet he was released after Constantine the Great took power. He also decked a heretic named Arius who denied Jesus Christ being true God and true man (sound familiar?).
As for the stockings, St. Nicholas would fill those belonging to prostitutes would have money thrown into them to help them avert engaging in the heinous crime of prostitution.
Let’s ensure that Catholics are made aware of these popular decorations and why they matter.
Keep Christ in Christmas!