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Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas: A time for carols, presents, good food… and high symbolism!

Christmas Crackers (see below post for more info)
The very word Christmas is rife with symbolic depth. ‘Christ’ itself is not, as many perhaps believe, part of Jesus’s name, but is rather a title given to him. It derives from the Greek ‘khristos’, meaning ‘anointed one’, and this word was used to translate the Hebrew word for messiah into the Greek language version of the Bible. The ‘mas’ is more obvious and simply means ‘mass’ – when we celebrate Christmas then, we are celebrating the mass of the messiah!

Not many of us really think of Christmas in these terms any more; the traditional, Christian meanings and symbols often make way for an international holiday where we exchange gifts, eat food and drink well.

So why is it we see red and green everywhere? Truth be told, there’s no clear-cut answer, but there is a prevalent theory. To understand, we have to take a trip back in time to the 14th century, where we are presented with a predominantly illiterate populace. On every 24th December – Adam and Eve’s Day – would be staged a ‘mystery play’. Mystery plays were extremely commonplace in the Middle Ages as they were an effective way for the church to educate the masses on biblical matters.

On this particular date, the Paradise Play would be performed, featuring the Tree of Knowledge. However, due to the difficulty in getting an apple tree in winter, a pine tree was instead used, with stored apples as the fruit. This quickly became an exceedingly popular idea, and the pine tree with red apples spread from town to town, and from home to home, gradually evolving into the tradition that a large portion of the world’s population now recognizes as inextricably associated with Christmas.
This is also where the traditional red and green symbolism originates. Christians take the red as the blood of Christ given in sacrifice, and the green as evocative of the hope of his return and the salvation of mankind; indeed, the evergreen tree is perpetual, and this too can be seen to represent the undying nature of the holy trinity.

Today, the red and green colours, together with the golds and bronzes that suggest the gifts of the wise men to Jesus, as well as his royalty, are ubiquitous and create a feeling of warmth and comfort invaluable to the Christmas feeling.

From art to decoration – we still have the pine trees (even if many are made of plastic today), wreathes, tinsel, baubles… Not to mention Santa Claus in his distinctive red outfit. And it’s all, if somewhat indirectly, rooted in the most fundamental tenets of the Bible, right back to the Fall of Man! So just think next time you see those hanging banners how it all came about, and why it is we celebrate the birthday of Jesus with red and green.


Introducing our Guest Blogger

Dear Reader, I would like to introduce you to our guest blogger, Emily. Here is a little bit about our friend from England. I hope you enjoyed her post! Feel free to comment and say hello to her.

About Emily

My name is Emily and I'm a 28-year-old SEO specialist from England. In my spare time I enjoy walks out in the great outdoors, playing the piano and reading.

I have long harboured a deep interest in the arts that has continually, and frustratingly, been at odds with my utter inability to draw or create anything beyond the level of a small child...

As such, stumbling upon this blog and being able to write something relevant to the great art I see everywhere is a welcome relief! I'm happy to have been able to contribute.



The photo within this post is of Christmas Crackers, also sometimes called Bon Bons. These have always been a part of Christmas for the English, and for us Australians, as well as other Commonwealth countries.  For more information on the history and tradition of these, check Wikipedia.

It has only been in recent years that I have seen them readily available in the U.S.A where they now seem to be enjoying some popularity.

In our next post, I will show you how to easily make your own Christmas Crackers.


Thank you, Emily. Sometimes we get all caught up in the commercialism of Christmas that we forget the remember the important things. Thank you for your research and timely information about the colors we see during the Christmas season.


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