Christmas Symbolism


Micheangelo Madonna and Child

There is little more endearing image than a mother and newborn infant.  This is one reason I believe that the classic nativity scene has such a deep emotional impact on us.  Christmas trees and baubles are fine and good, but the “religious” and oh so much more human image of the mother and child is so much more powerful.

While the nativity scene may not be in its “moment of time” steadfastness may not be biblically accurate (shepherds and magi arriving simultaneously, etc).  It does encapsulate the “real” Christmas message.

So too does the imagery of my favourite Christmas carol: The Holly and the Ivy. Whole this piece can only be found referenced to 1711 or so (with most extant copies being early 19th Century), its origin is probably much old.  Within it there is the evergreen  imagery of the pre-Christian winter decoration tradition, but there is buried within it much of Medieval Christian symbolism of Christ and His mother.  The Holly representing Jesus and the Ivy – Mary.

The pure white berries of the ivy are a testimony to Mary’s virgin purity.  The dark red fruit of the holly Jesus’ blood.  The prickles of the holly represent Jesus’ crown and suffering.

These mid-winter greens (the holly and the ivy) also in the depths of the bleakness give hope. The nativity story likewise gives hope to a world caught up in its own figurative “mid-winter’s” bleakness of competition, bitterness and strife.

The carol is also a pretty song.


May those reading have a joyous new year.