Holiday symbols add to seasonal celebrations

Metro News Service
Wednesday, November 24, 2021
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The Menorah is one of many decorative holiday symbols. METRO NEWS SERVICE PHOTO

Decorating homes and other spaces is a major component of the holiday season. Holiday decorations often reflect celebrants’ religious beliefs, and the following are some traditional holiday decor symbols for people of various faiths.

Christmas tree

Christian or secular Christmas symbol

Few things evoke thoughts of Christmastime quite like a towering evergreen parked front and center in a home’s picture window. Christmas trees are believed to date back to sixteenth century Germany. The custom ultimately arrived in America when the country welcomed an influx of German immigrants. It is widely believed that various non-Christian cultures may have used evergreen plants indoors in celebration of the winter solstice, which suggests Christmas trees may pre-date Christian symbolism.


Jewish Chanukah symbol

Menorahs are seven-armed candelabras used in Jewish religious worship. To mark the Chanukah celebration, a special nine-armed hanukkiah is displayed for eight days and nights. A candle is lit each day to commemorate the miracle of oil lasting in the rededicated Temple after the Maccabees’ successful uprising against the Syrian Greeks. The menorah typically is placed in a highly visible spot, such as the front window of a home or in a hightraffic living space.

Advent wreath

Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran, among others, Christian symbol

The Advent wreath is used by various Christian denominations and draws attention to the weeks preceding Christmas. A new candle is lit on the wreath each Sunday at mass to prepare the faithful to receive the Lord Jesus.

Kinara and Mishumaa Saba

Kwanzaa cultural symbol The Kinara (candle holder) and the Mishumaa Samba (the seven candles) are symbolic of Kwanzaa. The candles and holder represent the Seven Principles, or the minimum set of values by which African people are urged to live.

Baby New Year

Secular symbol Baby New Year is a popular promotional symbol used to commemorate the dawn of a new year. The baby represents rebirth and may be traced back to the ancient Greeks or Egyptians. Historians say the Greeks believed that their god of wine, Dionysus, was reborn on New Year’s Day as the spirit of fertility. While people may not decorate with Baby New Year figurines, they do participate in “First Baby” competitions, which celebrate those infants born in the opening moments of a new year.

Nativity scene

Christian Christmas symbol

It’s customary for nativity scenes to be included in Christmas decor schemes. The nativity depicts the birth of Christ and typically includes a manger, Mary, Joseph, shepherds, various animals, an angel, and the three visiting Magi. The infant Jesus also is included, though some people prefer to wait until the after the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve to place Jesus in the manger. Live nativity scenes also are commonplace around Christmas. Saint Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first live nativity scene in 1223.