Christmas is defined by its symbols, be it the Christmas tree or Santa Claus. What if we told you that these symbols are entirely unrelated to Christmas? We are sorry to break it to you but this is true. Christmas symbols – like the mistletoe and candy cane – are the life of Christmas, and imagining a Christmas without them is impossible. Bayside Journal spoke to a few Christians to find out about these symbols and why they came up.
Yes, you read that right. Santa Claus has nothing to do with Christmas. “The origin of the figure of Santa Claus can be traced to the 4th century St Nicholas, a generous man who would secretly help people. It’s the USA and Coca Cola that hyped it up with its advertisement. That is how Santa Claus as we know it, came into being, so that people could start buying gifts during the festive season,” says Stafford Britto, a 23-year-old Catholic.
Reindeer pull Santa Claus’ sleigh and help him deliver gifts. So, if Santa Claus is not real, can they be? Technically, they are – as a species of deer native to the coldest regions in the world. But linked to Christmas? Not at all. Eden Lobo, a student, mentions, “I was extremely disappointed when I found out how so many things that we associate with Christmas are not even related to the festivals. But our Christmas isn’t complete without them even when we know they have no significance.”
Have you ever thought about the purpose of a Christmas tree during Christmas? “The Christmas tree can be said to have some significance in the sense that they served as shelter for Joseph and Mary on their way until they found a place,” says Charmaine Vaz, a psychologist. “Apart from that the evergreen Christmas tree concept has come from Western countries, where they use evergreen trees to decorate their houses during winter.”
How did stockings come into being? Jacob Almeida a 45-year-old engineer, says, “Stockings are related to Santa Calus. I had always heard of a story where Santa would secretly put gold coins in a man’s house that was in need of money and every time he would put the money they would end up in a stocking that was hanging there. I don’t know how far this story is true.”
Mistletoe is a plant that grows on different trees. The tradition of hanging mistletoe in the house sprung from the belief that it brings good luck and keeps bad luck away. “Christmas is about joy and spreading happiness. Mistletoe is a symbol of love and friendship. Kissing under the mistletoe has no real significance. It only means that people who kiss under it stay friends, and that there is love between them forever,” says Melroy Ferreira, a 38-year-old architect.
Candy canes are sugar sticks given to children during Christmas. Twenty-one-year-old Deirdee D’Mello says, “Christmas is about joy and merry-making. So when we make sweets, we keep these candy canes as well.”
For us, snow and Christmas go hand in hand. Charmaine tells us that the reason the two are associated together is because of the date of Christmas, which itself is not – and cannot be – accurate. “Jesus was born in Bethlehem and it doesn’t snow there. It may have been chilly. The White Christmas or the fact of there being snow around Christmas time has come from the USA, where it snows during December. Also, we don’t know the exact date of the birth of Jesus, since it’s not mentioned in the Bible,” she says.
All of these symbols may not have any relevance with regard to Christmas. But they still add flavour to the festive season, and have now inextricably become a part of Christmas. Wouldn’t Christmas without any of these seem incomplete, even meaningless?