Thursday, December 3, 2015

Christmas Legends


Buffalo Courier – Express

Monday, Dec. 23, 1968

Page 21



Symbols Adopted By Christians


Yule Greens Paean Rooted



By ONALEE RICHARDSON

MOST LEGENDS about the
greens and plants which we
commemorate the birth of
Christ had their roots in pagan
belief because as pagans became
Christians they carried
their symbols into their new
found religious observances.


Many charming legends sur-
 round the Christmas tree, oldest
and most celebrated symbol of
Christmas. One story says that
Pastor Martin Luther wandered
through the woods on a starry
Christmas Eve, cut a small
snow-laden fir tree and took it
home to his children. He decorated
it with candles to represent
the stars in the sky that
Holy evening.

A MORE ANCIENT legend
tells that St. Boniface in the
13th century persuaded the Teutons
to give up the cruel custom
of sacrificing a child before a
giant oak tree each year during
their mid-winter festival, and
advised them to cut a fir tree,
take it home and celebrate with
their children. He also said that
the fir tree was a symbol of
peace because their homes were
built of it and it symbolized
immortality with its evergreen
leaves and its top branches
pointing heavenward.


Many legends have been
passed from generation to generation
about holly, of the glossy
green leaves and red berries,
which we use extensively in
table decorations and wreaths
at Christmastide. It was venerated
by the Druids. Greeks and
Romans are a symbol of goodwill.


A PAGAN BELIEF about
holly was that when brought
into the house it gave shelter to
friendly fairy-folk of the woodlands
and warded off evil spirits.

It was worshipped before the
birth of Christ because its green
color in the middle of winter
was thought to give promise of
the sun's return for another
year.

Many believed, as early as
the first century, that planting
holly around a home kept the
house from being struck by
lighting. Early French and English
people hung sprigs of holly
on their doors to show that they
were Christians.


SOME BELIEVED that the
crown o! thorns forced upon
Jesus' head at the crucifixion
was fashioned of holly leaves:
at first, its berries were white
blood from Christ's brow turned
them red. A legend from Brittany
says that a small bird
tried to help Christ when he
was carrying the cross by
plucking thorns from his brow.


The bird's breast became
stained with blood and the bird
was forever after called Robin
Redbreast. Even in present-day
Germany and England it is regarded
as unlucky to step on a
holly berry, which is a favorite
food of the robin.


Mistletoe, a parasitic plant,
was a sacred plant to the
Druids, whose priests used to
cut. with a golden sickle, an oak
branch on which mistletoe was
growing and give a twig to each
of their followers. They prayed
that each who received a
branch, should find divine favor
and a blessing from nature.

THE CUSTOM OF KISSING
beneath the mistletoe comes
from a Scandanavian myth. It
was the Goddess Frigga who
hung mistletoe high and was the
first to stand under the glistening
white berries offering
kisses.


The poinsettia, traditional
flower of Christmas, was
introduced to this country by Dr.
Joel Poinsett and is still called
by many "Flor de N o c h Buena,
" the flower of the Holy Night.


Of the many legends about
this flower, one of the most
enchanting is about a small
Mexican girl who wept on
Christmas Eve because she had
nothing of beauty to offer at the
shrine of the Christ Child. Her
tears fell upon some wayside
weeds and they became
transformed into the scarlet
bracts of the poinsettia.




Article used with the permission of:

Buffalo State College Archives
 and Special Collections
E. H. Butler Library #135
Buffalo State College
          1300 Elmwood Ave.     
   Buffalo,  NY 14222-1095

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