How many of us embrace various symbols of Christmas or perhaps even sing certain Christmas songs without a clue as to what they mean, or meant when they first originated.
Many of the symbols of Christmas were designed to witness to faith and Christian beliefs. Take the candy cane. There are variations on the legend, but it's said to have been created as a witness to Christ-- its shape like a J for Jesus or turned upside down like a shepherd's staff; the red stripes represent Christ's blood shed for the sins of the world and the stripes themselves a reminder of when the soldiers whipped him.
The popular Christmas song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is said to have started out as a children's rhyme around 1780, but eventually came to take on religious significance. While perhaps unproven, it's said that "My true love" is God the Father; "A partridge in a pear tree" is Jesus as the partridge, the cross as the pear tree; "Two turtle doves" - the Old and New Testaments; "Three French hens" - the gifts of the wise men or thee Christians virtues (Faith, Hope and Charity) or the three persons of the Trinity; "Four calling birds" the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John); "Five golden rings" five books of Moses. (Does Moses have five books?) Anyway, you get the idea.
Another of my favorite carols, "Tomorrow Shall be My Dancing Day," is one rich with symbolism whose meaning seems to inspire much debate. It goes like this: "Tomorrow shall be my dancing day, I would my true love so to chance, to see the legend of my play, to call my true love to my dance." And the chorus, "Sing Oh, my love. Oh, my love, my love. This have I done for my true love." The song is said to have Jesus referring to mankind as "his true love" and his dance, living; though there are varying interpretations.
And how many of us stop to consider that Santa Claus was derived from legends surrounding Saint Nicholas. While there is apparently great uncertainty and lack of documentation about the facts of Saint Nicholas, it pleases me that the guy in the red suit seems to have originated not from some store marketing plan, but from someone who tried to extend love and kindness to others.
By the way, lest I give the impression I don't have a merry bone in my body, I must say I'm having lots of fun sending and receiving some of the clever online Christmas greetings available nowadays. See me and my three teenagers as elves. Here's the whole brood.
Hope your Christmas is warm and wonderful and your New Year filled with many blessings.