Monday, December 3, 2012

Origins and Legends of Christmas

          We had an awesome program at Relief Society earlier this month. The theme was on the origins of Christmas – why we use various icons in our holiday celebration.

          The star, the angels, the nativity . . . those I could figure out.  But where did Santa Clause come from?  Or Christmas lights? Or the candy cane – though growing up I had always believed that it was to represent the crooks of the shepherds who were “abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night”  but there’s actually more to it – or so goes the legend. 

          Origins have become fabricated over the centuries.  Or else the decorative plant life was adapted from pagan celebration and reasons were made to fit the Christian holiday – which (unfortunately) often gets overlooked about why we have a Christmas and why we started celebrating it in the first place.

          I’ve now come across two sources which tell me that the candy cane originated in Indiana – a treat designed as a reminder to why we have Christmas.  The original candy cane in red and white. 

          First off the candy cane is hard – that was to symbolize comparing Christ to a solid “rock” and white stands for purity.

          The shape of the cane is not only in the shape of a crook (symbolizing the Good Shepherd) but when turned, it becomes the letter “J” which stands for “Jesus”
          Jesus atoned for all of our sins.  His blood was shed. The red of the candy cane symbolizes that blood. 

          This may have some truth to it, but according to this web page the claim is false.  But I do like the quote, “meaning is still there for those who “have eyes to see and ears to hear” – I think that’s true with all symbols if we just focus on the possible reasons as they relate to Christ.

          Clement Clarke Moore had written a poem for his children.  This later became known to the world as “The Night Before Christmas Using the description of a jolly man dressed in red, an artist drew the symbol that would later be accepted by the nation as “Santa Clause” a symbol of commercialism.

          I LOVE the book “I Believe in Santa Clause” written by Diane G. Adamson and illustrated by M. Chad Randall.  The book has received criticism from the Pharisee types – “How dare somebody compare Santa Clause to Jesus.”  While others rave, “This is really cool.” 

          I’d rather see a Santa Wreath decorating somebody’s car bumper than the nativity scene. I’d rather see Santa drinking coke or riding a Norelco shaver than have the commercialism of Christmas desecrated or Savior by portraying him as the one drinking coke or using Norelco. 

          Santa Clause has been made fun of, abused, loved, accepted, rejected, used, given, smiles, loves children, wears red, brings gifts . . . Jesus has been made fun of, abused, loved, accepted, rejected, used, given, smiles, loves children, wears red, brings gifts . . . granted the gifts that Jesus gives are eternal and intangible whereas the gifts we receive from Santa are tangible and don’t last quite as long. 

But there are similarities between the two that don’t have to be viewed as sacrilegious.  Santa is a part of Christmas whether you like it or not.  Maybe the problem is he’s become almost bigger, more important than the “Guest of Honor” – but with Santa symbolizing the commercialism aspect, he helps to keep the sacredness of our Redeemer.

There are some symbolisms or décor that are offered that I don’t so much care about its origin – such as the Yule Log, Wassail Punch or Figgie Pudding.  They’re not a part of my Christmas.  That doesn’t mean they’re less important to others. 

From stars evolving into candles on the Christmas tree to lights (because candles start fires – and actually so can lights) improvements have been made on many Christmas symbols.  At the same time, commercialism has desecrated so many others. 

Whether the legends and/or origins have truth or not, I really appreciate the symbolism that ties so many icons to the true meaning of Christmas.

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