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Aspects of Christmas

Holly Wreaths

Holly wreaths are usually circular, and this is a symbol of eternity because a circle has no beginning and no ending. Holly is used because it is evergreen it is used as a symbol of growth and everlasting life; the berries symbolising the blood of Jesus and the branches have thorns that symbolize the crown of thorns worn by Jesus at his death. It has been used by Christians for hundreds of years to remind them of the true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas Carols

The original meaning of the word carol is dance. Thousands of years ago pagan people danced around stone circles such as Stonehenge at the Winter Solstice. Once upon a time Carols were sung in all the seasons but today they are only sung at Christmas and they are usually songs and not dances. Since the birth of Christianity religious carols have been written and sung. Unfortunately, they were written in Latin which was the language of the church until the reformation and, so they became unpopular with everyday people. In 1223 St Francis of Assisi started organising nativity plays in Rome and these were accompanied by songs that told the story in the languages that people could understand.

Nativity Scenes and Plays

The word ‘nativity’ comes from natal which is a Latin word for birth. This is also where we get the word ‘native’ from. Many young people perform plays of the nativity of Jesus and some families, churches and schools have nativity scenes of a stable and crib and characters from the story. The nativity play or crib scene reminds Christians of the story of the birth of Jesus.


Crackers originated around 1850 and were the idea of Tom Smith who made bonbons with mottos and wrapped the m in paper. One day he heard his fire crackling and he decided to make his bonbon wrappers crackle and the modern-day cracker was born. When Tom died his sons introduced hats and gifts into crackers.

Christmas Trees and Presents

The evergreen tree has always been a symbol of life in the depths of winter and was first used by ancient Romans. In Northern Europe people planted trees in boxes and brought them into their homes. Some early Christians spoke out about this use of trees in winter as they thought it was pagan and like worshipping an idol. During the middle ages missionaries preached that the tree reminded them of the birth of Jesus and the legend that the ice and snow melted on trees when Jesus was born. There was another legend attributed to a missionary called Boniface where the fir tree was a symbol of the love and mercy of God. Fir trees being used as symbols at Christmas began in Latvia in the 1500s. The custom became popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. Sometimes cookies were hung on the trees and eventually ornaments. Trees were displayed in churches alongside lighted candles. Eventually the candles were put on the tree and this was the beginnings of Christmas and fairy lights

Father Christmas

The man behind Father Christmas is St Nicholas a Bishop who lived in the country we now call Turkey in the 4th century. He was born into a rich family and inherited their wealth. He was kind and helped the poor by giving them gifts.

One story about St Nicholas is about how he dropped gold down a poor man’s chimney to provide money for the dowries for his three daughters so that they could get married. When the money was dropped down the chimney it dropped into a stocking that was hanging on the fire place to dry. The father waited up and caught St Nicholas when he dropped gold down the chimney for his third daughter. Both promised that they would keep his good deeds secret, but people found out and after this when anyone received a secret gift it was assumed it was from St Nicholas’. Over the last few centuries the giver of presents at Christmas became known as Father Christmas or Santa Claus

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