Important feasts such as Christmas require great preparation. Catholics throughout the ages have creatively come up with all sorts of ways to do so, many of which are symbolic.
The tradition of the church incorporates material symbols because they help us get a better grasp on the spiritual realities that they are representing. Over the years, the Church has assumed certain traditions from the peoples that She has evangelized; or she created on her own certain forms that would help to “materialize” the spiritual realities that She was trying to transmit and offer. These are catechetical tools that aid us in keeping in the Mysteries of our faith and helping others to do so as well.
Advent and Christmas are liturgical times that are particularly rich in symbols. Often we are used to them but are still lacking many of the key elements that can help us take full advantage of them. With today’s post, we are hoping to familiarise you a bit with the origin, history and meaning of these symbols so as to enrich your preparation and experience this Christmas.
3 Symbols Of Christmas For Catholics
The Christmas Tree
The Christmas tree is the most visible and frequent symbol of Christmas. Unfortunately, we don’t always give it a religious meaning. The commercial world has appropriated the Christmas tree as if it were simply a symbol of the “holidays” and completely ignores the centrality of the Our Lord’s role. While the traditions that each family may use can vary, what’s important is that we remember and make it clear that the Christmas tree is a Catholic symbol. Here are a few examples. Some families allow the youngest child to be the one who puts the star on the tip of the trip. Some families decorate the tree while praying the joyful mysteries of the rosary. Others ask the parish priest to bless the Nativity scene and the tree. Still others will offer up special prayers for every decoration that goes up on the tree: blue ones represent prayers of repentance, silver ones represent thanksgiving, gold ones represent praise, and red ones represent petitions.
Get a blessing for your Christmas Tree HERE!
The Advent Wreath
Another symbol that comes from ancient Europe which, thankfully, is becoming more and more popular is that of the Advent wreath. The advent wreath helps us follow along more intensely the four weeks that precede Christmas. As we light the candles, we are prepare ourselves to receive our Lord Jesus. Every Sunday, we can participate all together as a family by preparing a little liturgy, emphasizing the particular aspects of the Advent time.
The Nativity Scene
Lastly, but certainly not least important, is the nativity scene. This beautiful tradition first began with the great Saint Francis of Assisi and was then spread throughout the world by the Franciscans. In its initial years, they were “living nativity scenes” and only later did they become figures made out of clay, wax, etc. Every family uses the nativity scenes in their own way. Some families add figures each Sunday of Advent and do a little play to narrate the story so that the little ones can get to know it well. The birth is, of course, the emblematical symbol of the day of Christmas. As such, it is on Christmas that the little baby child Jesus is finally placed in the manger of the nativity scenes. Traditionally, the family will gather and sing Christmas carols to celebrate.
We would love to get your feedback and hear how your families celebrate Christmas. What are your favorite prayers or Christmas carols? What kind of liturgies or family activities have you found to be the most fruitful?