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The Symbols of Christmas

Why do we use the symbols we do at Christmas time?

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Christmastime is filled with holiday traditions and shiny decorations. Certain symbols are everywhere, but what do they mean?


Whether sitting atop the Christmas tree or decorating windows, the holiday season wouldn’t be complete without stars. After the birth of Jesus, three wise men followed a star to Bethlehem.


A candle is considered a “mirror of starlight” and another symbol of the star of Bethlehem. Before the invention of electricity, people lit candles and placed them (very carefully) on their trees.


Bells have been rung to announce the birth of Jesus and to ring in the Christmas celebrations.

Tinsel on the Tree

An old legend says that there was a poor woman who couldn’t afford to decorate her Christmas tree. When she went to bed, the spiders in her house spun webs on the tree to help. When the sunlight hit them the next morning, they turned to silver and gold tinsel.

In another version of this tale, she was trying to clean and swept all the house spiders to a far corner in the home. They found the Christmas tree and spun webs around the tree. Either Santa Claus or Jesus, depending on the legend, liked the webs and turned them into silver and gold tinsel to keep her from cleaning them away.

Candy Canes

Jesus is often referred to as the “Good Shepherd,” so these candies are made in a shepherd’s crook shape. The red stripe represents blood from Christ’s sacrifice, and the white exemplifies his purity.

Colors of Christmas

Just as with the candy canes, the color red represents the blood spilled when Jesus died on the cross. Green is representative of everlasting light and life. A legend suggests that when Jesus was born, the trees around the world shook off the snow from their branches to reveal new shoots of green.

Gifts with Bows and Ribbons

Besides adding that extra touch to a wrapped present, what is the significance of using a bow or ribbon? The idea of gift-giving started at the birth of Christ when people brought gifts to the newborn babe. A ribbon is used to represent how people should be “tied” together by bonds of goodwill and unity.

National Correspondent at and Kelli Ballard is an author, editor, and publisher. Her writing interests span many genres including a former crime/government reporter, fiction novelist, and playwright. Originally a Central California girl, Kelli now resides in the Seattle area.

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