I feel, as I'm pulling out all my Christmas decorations, that I JUST put them away from last year's celebrations.
Is it possible that a year has gone by already?
It is occurring to me also that I must ask myself... WHY? ... Why do I do this every year?
Why do millions of people around the world bring out their Christmas memorabilia every year to decorate surfaces that for 11 months of the year typically see nary a tchotchke?
I get the tradition and I get the desire to switch things up....for heaven's sake, I'm a decorator, that's what I do. And let's face it... for a sizeable portion of the planet, this time of year can be a dreary place. But the frenetic atmosphere, the timelines we impose on ourselves, the dollars spent on the newest Christmas trend. It truly has me flummoxed....has had me flummoxed for a number of years actually. Yet every year I bring out several plastic Christmas containers where each precious ornament has been carefully wrapped in tissue, I then strategically place each item on it's designated shelf, garland, branch or tabletop... for a month, and then carefully reverse the order, wrap each item back in tissue, place delicately back in it's original box and then securely packed into the special Christmas plastic container to hibernate for another 11 months...Curious.
I decided this year as I was unpacking my decorations, some of which I've had for 30 years, to investigate the meaning of these said decorations.
My Christmas wreath is usually the first traditional decorative item I hang up each year. I try to give it a life span of several months, so November 25th until March is the length of time it hangs at our front door. For that matter, I have several hung throughout our home, albeit, for only a month. Quite simply, the wreath
symbolizes continuity...no beginning no end. Druids wore holly sprigs, believing that holly was sacred and magical due to the fact that it stays green all year. It must also be noted that holly is accompanied by red berries....the traditional complementary colours of Christmas. It is thought that hanging wreaths on doors originated in Roman times...signalling a 'victory'. When Christianity became the dominant religion in Roman times, the holly wreath morphed into the Christmas wreath, a major symbol and decoration still to this day.
The Christmas tree
is also an ancient symbol. It is believed that trees and other greenery were used during pagan ritulas to celebrate the birth of the sun in the sky during Winter Solstice celebrations. Christians adopted December 25th, very close to winter solstice, as the symbolic birthday of Jesus Christ. Martin Luther, a German Protestant Reformer is thought to have brought the first Christmas tree, a fir, indoors and decorated it with candles. We are seeing the symbolism of fire and spirit in the evergreen, a tree that points to the heavens. Eventually the Christmas tree was decorated with round glass balls, symbolizing the planets and of course the crowning glory of the Christmas tree ....The Star of Bethlehem.
I've always had a hard time with this next one as I'm not a huge fan of Santa Claus. However I'm a huge admirer of Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas
was born a Greek in Asia Minor in the 3rd century AD. He was a devout Christian, most notably known as a secret gift giver, often placing coins in shoes of people who left them out for him. He is revered by many Christian denominations and is honoured as a patron saint of many people and countries throughout the world. He died on December 6th, 343AD. We in North America have somewhat bastardized the original good works of Saint Nicholas and have a commercialized version known as Santa Claus
, adapted from the dutch name Sinterklaas. I prefer to honour the original gift -giver.... Nicholas - 'The Wonderworker'.
Of course there is the ever popular Christmas stocking
....which for me when I was little, was my father's heavy wool sock. Legend has it that Saint Nicholas put coins in three sisters' stockings when he learned that heir father had died impoverished, therefore leaving them with no dowery. I have to admit, that my favourite part of Christmas morning are the stockings that somehow, almost magically get filled up each Christmas Eve...by whom...I'm not sure!
Although these traditions are indigenous to Christmas, they are by no means exclusive to Christians. The ancient symbols of Christmas.... continuity, fire, light, sacredness, heaven, giving, love... are perennial and can be shared by all faiths at this time of year.
Happy Christmas decorating!
There is a reason why we do it!
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