Symbolism: What is on your Christmas Tree?

It was a quiet evening at home. I sat by the fire while my black lab, Bailey, snored in the leather recliner. The chair is her favorite spot to sleep. Christmas music set the tone in the background. Memories of Christmases past brought vivid images to mind as I gazed at each ornament on the Christmas tree. My oldest son’s first ornament with his named cross stitched on a red wood stocking adorns the tree each year. A sparkly gold and clear carousel ornament for my daughter represents her senior year in high school when she was the Carousel Queen. A red bass guitar ornament for my youngest son dangles on a branch to remind me of his unexpected purchase last year. He walked in the door with the real instrument in his hands – something that was a surprise to all of us. He has never had any musical talent.

Each year, I carefully place the quilted bells, stars and stocking shaped ornaments on the tree that I made the first year I had my own tree. They are thirty something years old now and are very sentimental to me. There was simply no money to buy ornaments. As I hang these, I tell the story to my family and I’m reminded of the many blessings since that first year.

Do you get the drift? All of these ornaments represent something unique in a particular year. We have continued this tradition through the years and now I look forward to finding a special ornament for two grandchildren. Emma Grace will open her ornament with excitement from Grammy again this year and Little Benjamin will receive his first ornament for the tree. Even the dog at my house gets an ornament. But she doesn’t get to open it because it would never make it to the tree. Or at least if it did, we probably would not recognize it.

There are other ornaments on the tree that represent joy and pain. Ornaments from trips taken bring back fond memories. Others signify accomplishments of a particular year or hobbies of my family. There are lots of fish and deer on the tree and even some western ornaments on the tree from our “horse years in the 90’s.” An “angel of comfort” ornament hangs on the tree holding a small black dog. This ornament was given to my younger son the year after his father left. There is a paw print ornament representing that same dog who was hit by a car while I was out running one morning a few years ago.

But near the top of the tree hangs a Chrismon. It was given to me by my step-grandmother over twenty years ago. The ornament was hand-made by some church lady at the Lutheran church that my grandfather’s family attended for many generations. When my step-grandmother was preparing to go to heaven, she gave family members things that would have special meaning to them. She was right. The chrismon ornament is one of my favorites.

A chrismon is intended to represent aspects of the Person, life or ministry of Jesus Christ and the history of the Christian Church. It is usually a single image, emblem or monogram. The term "chrismon" comes from the Latin phrase "Christi Monogramma", meaning "monogram of Christ."

Perhaps most commonly, chrismons are used to adorn Christmas trees during Advent and Christmas, where they are made from various materials. They

                   Photography by Ann Wayne

can also be found as decorations in and outside of Christian church buildings and homes, and even found on gravestones and personal stationary. Many of these symbols have histories dating back to the earliest times of the Church. Even though there is only one chrismon on my Christmas tree, the Christian symbolism reminds me of the reason we have Christmas. It is in the shape of a Greek Cross. The Greek Cross has arms of equal length. This particular symbol has circles on the arms, representing eternity.

The celebration of Christ’s birth this season and the reminder of his death on the cross bring all of us hope. In the four gospels, we witness the life of Christ. In Matthew 1:21, the writer portrays the big picture of Christ’s life. “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” And in John 16:33, Jesus tells his disciples “these things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD.” We have a promise from God himself, through his Son, that we can overcome adversity, struggles, sin, and temptations if we simply believe in Him and trust in the Holy Spirit to guide us daily.

As you place your ornaments on the tree this year, I encourage you to hang at least one special ornament that represents the life of Christ. It will be a wonderful reminder for your family about the reason we celebrate Christmas.

May your family be blessed this holiday season!

Ann Wayne

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your post, Ann. Like you, we have many ornaments that signify special times in our lives. Some are beautiful and would catch the eye of strangers. But the ones that hold the most meaning for me are the ones that our girls made when they were young. Many are mere skeletons of their original selves, but favorites still. Broken paper chains made of construction paper, Christmas cards glued onto butter container lids, syrofoam balls with a few sequins held on by straight pins. No one would nominate our tree as the most beautiful, but when we look at it, we see our lives together. 40 years and counting...


1 Corinthians 1:3-4

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God"