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Decorations

For many the decorations are an essential part of the Christmas celebrations but do they belong or are they just a hangover from much older pagan festivals?

Why do we decorate?

It is impossible to say for sure where many of the traditional Christmas decorations originated. We see them appearing in celebrations long before the Christian celebrations of Christmas but then who is to say that they don't predate some of the other festivals that we know about. It appears since the earliest man appeared their have been celebrations around the middle of winter and doubtless some of the traditions we share in today pre-date even paganism. Who is to say that any particular tradition belongs to any one festival? Yet things change and so does their meaning and just as we don't insist on speaking in Anglo-Saxon or Latin because English has its roots in those languages so it is foolish to insist that we should take away the Christian meaning of the decorations in favour of their earlier pagan history. Christmas is a Christian festival and it seems only right that we concentrate on the Christian meaning behind the Christmas decorations. Christians soon realised that far from detracting from the message of Christmas so the festivities can help enhance the spiritual dimension of the festivities.

Some mistakenly believe that it was the Victorians who established the Christmas celebrations that we enjoy today. It is true that the Victorians loved Christmas and all its fripperies but most of the traditional celebrations pre-date this period. We can be thankful for the Victorians introducing the Christmas card, however.

The Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree pre-dates the Christian festivities of Christmas and references can be found to it in the Roman celebrations of Saturnalia where a pine tree was hung with little masks of Bacchus, it may even pre-date these celebrations. We cannot be sure when the Christmas tree became associated with Christian celebration but there are traditions of Martin Luther (the founder of the Lutheran Church and the Protestant Movement) making the Christmas tree part of the Churches celebrations. The tree should be evergreen symbolising the everlasting life that Jesus Christ brings, and should be decorated with lights symbolising Christ the light of the world. The Christmas tree as we know it comes from Germany and although tradition has it that Prince Albert (Queen Victoria's husband) introduced it to Britain there are numerous accounts of it being used by German families in Britain before this time.

Holly

It appears that anything evergreen has been employed to decorate the home for Christmas but the thorns of the holly bush have often been seen to represent the thorns of the crown of thorns worn by Christ at his execution.

Mistletoe

Mistletoe is most certainly pagan in origin and formed an important role in the Druid mid-winter festivals. Mistletoe is by tradition not used to decorate Churches because of its association with paganism. It's white berries have been seen to symbolise the virginity of the mother of Christ. There are traditions of its fertility enhancing properties and it is traditional for those who meet under holly to kiss.