Ten Christmas Decorations and Their Meaning
There’s just something about Christmas decorations. The ambiance of stringed lights warm the heart like a flickering fire, and sparkly ribbons on packages stir anticipation and joy. Don’t we all love to drive through neighborhoods to view people’s creative light displays? We’re naturally drawn to light. It makes us feel happy, even if we’re not aware of why: Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12).
People decorate for the holiday even if they don’t believe God came to man in the baby Jesus that first Christmas. They love Christmas decorations even if they don’t realize their meaning. But many of the traditional decorations symbolize something quite significant. They’re not just decorations. Perhaps it’s the underlying meaning that warms the heart, even for those who don’t know their significance.
So, what do these decorations symbolize? Perhaps we could all use a refresher course in a world that’s gotten so far from the true meaning of Christmas.
Here’s ten of the most popular Christmas decorations and their meaning:
Just as lost sheep are guided to safety by the sound of a bell, bells remind us to follow the Shepherd. When a sheep is lost, the shepherd searches for it until he finds it. And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and brings it home (Luke 15:4-6). The tinkling of tiny bells and the chimes of the great tower bells are a “joyful noise unto the Lord” (Psalm 95:1) as we praise Him during the celebration of His birth.
The candy cane may seem to be a meaningless decoration, but it’s origin holds deep meaning. A candy maker incorporated several symbols to signify Christ’s life. First, the hard candy symbolizes the solid rock foundation of Christ and the firmness of the promises of God (Matthew 7:24). The J shape represents the precious name of Jesus (Philippians 2:9) and also the staff of the “Good Shepherd” (John 10:14) who reaches down into the ditches of the world to lift out the fallen lambs who, like sheep, have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6). The white symbolizes the virgin birth (Matthew 1:23) and sinless nature of Christ (1 Peter 2:22). The red stripes represent the scourging Jesus received and the blood shed by which we receive eternal life (1 Peter 2:24).
Inspired by the gifts of the Magi to Christ, the exchange of gifts has become one of the most beautiful ways of sharing the joy of Christmas. But above all, we remember that the greatest gift of all was God’s gift of love, the Savior to the world. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
The prickly thorns of holly and its bright red berries are the symbol of the crown of thorns and drops of blood of our Savior on the cross. “He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
Lights are the most lavish of all symbols. What light is to the earth, Christ is to men. Lights remind us that Christ is the “light of the world” (John 8:12) and a light unto our path (Psalm 119:105).
Mistletoe has become known for the delightful custom of kissing under its bough. It symbolizes the love and good will that Christ’s coming brings. In addition, centuries ago it was claimed that this plant possessed healing ability, which reminds us of the Great Physician, Christ, who came at Christmas to give His healing balm for our sin-sick souls. “Jesus…went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil” (Acts 10:38).
“It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick…I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:12&13).
Snowmen are a popular Christmas decoration. The perfect white color of a snowman can represent the cleansing of our sins by Christ’s death on the cross. “Though our sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). The smiling face on the snowman can remind us of the joy that is ours when the burden of our sin is removed. “…you believe in Him and are filled with inexpressible joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8&9).
The star comes directly from the scriptures. As the star in the east led the wisemen to make their long journey so they could find Jesus and “worship Him” (Matthew 2:2), so this symbol reminds us to seek Him and come to Him in adoration and worship. His spirit is a light that leads and guides our lives into the Truth and plan for our lives. “Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7&8). “Wise men still seek Him.”
The Christmas tree is believed to have derived from pagan customs, but it can have deep meaning for Christians. The evergreen tree thriving in the dead of winter gives hope and symbolizes eternal life. The cut tree symbolizes Christ’s death. Bringing the tree into our home gives it new life, and decorating it gives it greater glory. The red ornaments hung on the tree can symbolize Jesus’ blood shed for us. Furthermore, the triangle shape of the tree symbolizes the Trinity. The tip at the top of the tree points to heaven, ever reminding us of why Jesus came – to give us eternal life with Him in heaven. We may search for the perfect tree at Christmas, but Jesus hung on the perfect tree at Easter, providing eternal life. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
The wreath of fresh evergreens reminds us of the eternal life that is ours because Christ was born to be our Savior. It’s circular shape with no beginning and no end and its evergreen color remind us of life unending. From ancient times, the wreath was also a symbol of victory. “Death is swallowed up in victory!” (Isaiah 25:8). “Thank God! He gave us victory over satan, sin and death through the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57) for those who will receive His “Christmas gift.”
God came to man to give him the gift of salvation. It’s a gift because it’s free. Will you accept the perfect gift God has given you on Christmas, His free gift of mercy and grace; the gift of abundant life in his Son and the eternal life he came to give?
It’s the gift our world needs the most!
It’s your turn. Which decoration is your favorite? Can you add to this list? I’ve added the snowman and tree to the original list my friend Karen gave me years ago. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments here or on social media.
A very merry Christmas to you all!
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