One story tells us that the three virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity were sent from Heaven to find a tree that was as high as hope, as great as love, as sweet as charity and one that had the sign of the cross on every bough -their search leading them to the Fir tree. St. Boniface, missionary to the Germans, in 725 AD said that this lovely fir tree with its branches pointing to heaven was indeed a holy tree, symbol of Christ's promise of eternal life and he instructed his people to carry an evergreen home from the wilderness into their homes and to surround it with gifts that were symbols of love and kindness.
Evergreens have been a symbol of rebirth since ancient times but it seems it was again in Germans where Martin Luther was so inspired by the lovely site of the stars shining through an evergreen as he walked home one winter evening that he brought a cut tree into the house and decorated with candles to reproduce the awe-inspiring effect of stars twinkling. In America the first record of a Christmas tree was in the 1830s in Pennsylvania but it didn't really catch on until Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1846 were sketched in the London News as standing around a Christmas Tree with their children. It is noted that Europeans liked their trees smallish- around 4 feet in height while Americans liked them floor-to-ceiling. Decorations which at first were homemade and rather simple, like popcorn and berries and nuts, gave way in the 1890s to more sophisticated ornaments imported from Europe.
Aside from the beauty and warmth that candles give in the cold dark winter months, they also have a symbolic significance in the Christmas season. They symbolize Christ who said "I am the light of the world"- John 8:12. The light of Jesus overcomes a world of sin and darkness. All over the world there is a tradition of putting lighted canclles in the window on Christmas Eve to guide the Christ child.
Besides being a colorful and beautiful adornment to the door, a wreath is also full of symbolism. The evergreen is symbol of everylasting life given by Christ to those who believe in him. Green is the symbolic color of renewal. The circular shape of the wreath symbolizes God, who has no beginning and no end. Wreaths have been used since Greek and Roman times to symbolize victory and welcome.
Santa: About 270 AD in a little sea coast town in Turkey, a boy named Nicholas was born to wealthy parents. Nicholas always enjoyed using his money to help people. When he was nearly 50 years old he decided to become a pastor. Ministers at that time wore long red coats (to remind people of the blood of Jesus shed for them) with a white stole around the neck (white for purity and the yoke shape as a reminder of being a servant). For 22 years Nicholas watched over his church. He loved having children sit on his lap while he told them stories about their heavenly father and gave them little gifts. It is said that a man in his church went bankrupt and in order to pay his bills the man was going to have to sell his three beautiful daughters into slavery - a common practice in that region in those days. Nicholas found out about this and in the dead of night went to the mans house quietly and tossed a bag of gold into the open window. One story says that the bag landed in a stocking that had been hung by the fire to dry. After his death in 342 AD many Christians began to follow the example of Saint Nicholas in giving anonymous gifts to the poor. It became popular to dress up like him on December 6 (the date of his death) and hand out gifts to children. It wasn't until 1820 that a dentist by the name of Clement Moore wrote a poem called "Twas the Night Before Christmas" for his sick child to cheer him up on Christmas Eve. The poem told of St. Nick who lived in the North Pole and drove a sleight pulled by 8 flying reindeer. He described St. Nick as a jolly old elf whose tummy shook like a bowl full of jelly. Forty years later Thomas Nast drew a cartoon picture of St. Nicholas with the red suit and rosy cheeks, white beard and a sack full of toys.
Candy Cane: According to legend, there was a candy maker who wanted to invent a candy that was as testimony to Jesus. First, he used a hard candy because Christ is the "rock of ages". This hard candy was shaped into a "J" for Jesus (and turned upside down it resembles a shepherd's staff reminding us that he is "the good shepherd". The candy was made white to represents the sinless nature of Jesus and a red stripe was added to remind us of the blood that he shed on our behalf. Sometimes a green stripe was added to remind us that he is an everlasting gift from God. The flavor of the candy was to be peppermint which is to remind us to Hyssop - the mint that was used in the Old Testament times for purification and sacrifice. The message of the candymaker is that "Jesus is the Christ".
You have been paying good attention if you have picked up on the fact that almost all legends of Christmas have something to do with Christ and his first coming into the world. That's why we think it's important to keep "Christ" in Christmas. We will always call our trees Christmas trees rather than Holiday trees and we will celebrate Christmas rather than X-mas because while the Holidays may be nice and X-mas may be easier to write, Christ is the reason for this season. Have a wonderufl Christmas!