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Legends of Tannenbaum
Throughout the centuries, children and their parents in northern climates have celebrated the arrival of the first snowfall by creating a snowman. Using buttons or coal for the eyes, a carrot for a nose and twigs for the arms, snowmen are created to capture the imaginations of young and old alike! It is said that snowmen are happiest when it becomes extremely cold and that they have learned to make the most out of their relatively short existence. Perhaps, they are happiest knowing that they help to bring families together and that – while they will melt away – the joy and memories that they create will last!
The Legend of the Evergreen Tree
Legend says that the evergreen tree is a symbol of the eternal life offered to Christians through their faith in Christ. Just as eternal life will last forever, the evergreen tree stays green all year round, never shedding its needles. On top of the tree there sits a star, pointing towards the heavens. This star represents the star that led the three wise men to Bethlehem. The lights on the tree represent Christ who is the “Light of the World.” The gifts that are placed underneath the tree represent God’s gift of His only son, He who brings hope, love, joy, and peace.
The Autumn Leaf
It is probably true that the vibrant colors of autumn represent the finest display of nature’s beauty seen anywhere. It is as if nature wishes to provide us all with a special treat before the long days of winter ahead. The falling leaves also represent security and renewal. As they fall to the ground they create a blanket over the soil to form a winter haven for the forest’s creatures. By falling to the ground they also allow for the rejuvenation of the tree’s growth the following spring. Autumn leaves therefore bring to mind the cycle of nature and constant renewal of life on Earth.
Closely associated with nature and the beauty of the forest, mushrooms have come to symbolize good luck. Finding a mushroom in the forest has long been viewed as being “lucky” and an expectation of good fortune is at hand. In Germany, adorning your Christmas tree with a mushroom signifies your reverence for nature and hope for good luck in the next year.
The Chimney Sweep
The chimney sweep ornament is a symbol of good luck. Further, he carries a blessing for happiness and prosperity. A traditional gift for newlyweds, the chimney sweep is placed by the stove or fireplace where he can keep domestic affairs in order by sweeping away the family’s troubles. At Christmas, he helps to keep peace and harmony during the holiday season.
According to Celtic legend, the owl symbolizes wisdom and helpfulness. Owls were also thought to have the powers of prophecy and were held in high prestige in nature ceremonies. Today, owls are still thought to be “wise”. Hanging an owl on your tree is thought to help you deal effectively with the challenges of the year ahead.
Due to their abundance in the forest, pinecones were among the first natural Christmas ornaments. Pinecones are a symbol of eternity. On the tree, Pinecones are a remembrance of God’s love for us and his offer of eternal life through the sacrifice of his son. As a result of their traditional use as a decoration, the early German glassblowers began making molds of these to reproduce. This fine tradition continues to this day.
Long ago there lived a mouse in the forest. The mouse was very clever and was able to hide from a sly fox that was always trying to catch him. One day the fox was very close and the mouse knew he could not run away so he decided to hide in a Douglas-Fir cone. Unfortunately, the cone was too small. That is why - even today – you can still see the hind legs and the tail of the mouse sticking out from the Douglas-Fir cone!
The ruler of the kingdom wears one of the oldest symbols of mankind, the crown. Wars have been fought over the possession of a crown. The crown symbolizes knowledge, authority and power. On a Christmas tree, the crown also evokes the Crown of Thorns that is itself a symbol of the power of God over mankind.
The heart, of course, is the symbol of love. Heart ornaments on the Christmas tree, signify the love in a home: God’s love for us and the love that family members have for one another together with the happiness shared throughout the holiday season.
Long ago there lived a very rich, but very miserly and lonely farmer. This farmer had walnut trees all over his property, but he had no time to crack the shells to get at the meat inside. Because he had no time for such foolish actions, he offered a prize for anyone who could come up with an easy way to crack the walnut shells. One day an old puppet carver came to the farmer’s home with a beautiful brightly painted puppet. The puppet had a large mouth and strong jaws- strong enough and big enough to crack the walnut shells. That was how the first nutcracker was made.
Legends of Tannenbaum
Matrioshka dolls are a set of stacking dolls, usually in sets of six, but in more elaborate and expensive sets can include as many as a dozen dolls. The dolls come apart at the waist and each one contains a smaller doll inside it, except for the last doll. The Matrioshka are created to resemble a robust, healthy-looking woman. The dolls are clothed in the type of headscarf popular with Russian women, as well as a shawl and a peasant skirt. Each doll has a progressively younger face and costume, representing several generations of women.
The house ornament signifies family shelter. Placed on a tree, this ornament signifies how grateful the family is for a warm and safe place to spend the holiday season, surrounded by loved ones. Houses depicted by German ornament makers are simple, like their own homes.
The lighthouse is a source of inspiration. It is a constant reminder of the light keeper’s legacy of courage and self sacrifice for the welfare of others. The guiding light from the lighthouse leads ships in troubled waters to safety. It’s lighted path is bordered on all sides by unknown dangers, which is why the lighthouse also serves as a symbol of God, who will lead you down the right path, if you follow His light.
The Legend of the Spider
Once there was a poor woman, unable to provide for her household the traditional Christmas decorations for the holidays. A spider found its way into the woman’s household, made it’s home in the undecorated Christmas tree and began to spin beautiful webs. That morning light from the window shown on the spider’s webs, turning them into silver. When the woman came down, she found the tree covered in silver. The spider had brought her good fortune!
Santa Claus has become the universal symbol of giving and sharing. The modern-day St. Nicholas, Santa lives with his elves at the North Pole. Every Christmas Eve he visits the houses of good little boys and girls travelling in a sled drawn by reindeer, leaving presents underneath their Christmas trees.
The Lucky Clover
Four leaf clovers – which are scarce in nature - are looked upon as lucky charms, bringing the “Luck of the Irish” with them. Hanging the lucky clover on your Christmas tree is thought to bring the family good luck for the upcoming year.
The Lady Bug
Named in honor of Mary “Our Lady”, these little red creatures are a symbol of good luck in Europe. Centuries ago, when farmers’ grapevines were plagued with aphids, they prayed for help. Those prayers were answered in the form of these red beetles. So appreciative were the farmers that they named them in Mary’s honor.
An ancient Egyptian symbol for strength and victory, garlic wards off evil and protects property from theft. Hanging garlic on your Christmas tree is believed to protect your household during the festive holiday season. It further provides strength to family members to carry on with life’s challenges in the New Year.
The Legend of the Carrot
A long time ago, the carrot ornament was very popular in Germany as a traditional gift for new brides. The carrot was believed to bring the bride luck in the kitchen when she would cook meals for her family, and when she was entertaining company.
The Legend of the Violin
Renaissance man believed that all things were interconnected in a metaphysical way. Therefore, the violin’s creation came to symbolize the connection between man and the cosmos. Man was its creator and the violin’s music sounded so harmonious, that many thought it was sent down from the heavens.
The Legend of the Harp
The harp is a Scottish symbol of the moon, fertility, and enchantment. The strings of the harp symbolize the bridge between heaven and earth. With mankind standing poised in the middle, striving now toward one and then toward the other, represented by the tension of the strings.
The Magic Slipper
There are a number of well-known legends that feature magic slippers or shoes. The magic slipper transports the wearer from a place of hardship or sorrow to a new world of opportunity and joy. Placing a magic slipper on a Christmas tree is thought to help bring new opportunity to the family members.
The olive represents the olive tree, the oldest tree in the world. It has stood as a symbol of peace, fertility, victory and strength for thousands of years. Also associated with this tree are wealth and prosperity. The adornment of your Christmas tree with an olive signifies your desire for good things in the future and the peace and happiness that these will bring.
Legends of Tannenbaum
Fish are representative of Jesus Christ. Jesus had gone down to the Sea of Galilee followed by 5,000 people who had earlier witnessed miracles he had performed on the sick. It was the Passover. Jesus and the disciples met to discuss how they were to feed the entire group, for the only food to be found were five barley loaves and two fish. After giving thanks, Jesus took the bread and fish and began distributing it among the crowd not stopping until everyone had taken as much as they wanted, and still twelve baskets were able to be filled up by the fragments that were left over.
The Peppermint (Pink) Pig
The pig is honored as a traditional Victorian holiday symbol representing good health, prosperity and happiness. The peppermint (pink) pig originated in Saratoga, New York. Originally cast in hard candy similar to a festive pink candy cane, it came to represent even more. It stood for old-fashioned Yuletide, a wonderful time to share memories through the gathering of friends and relatives.
The rose is a symbol of the Virgin Mary. A rose on your Christmas tree represents the love and compassion the Virgin Mary holds in her hearts for men and brings happiness and wellbeing into the household during the holidays.
The Legend of the Poinsettia
Mexican legend tells of a poor boy on his way to church on Christmas Eve. As was the custom in his village, everyone would bring gifts to lay at the feet of the Baby Jesus near the altar. The little boy felt ashamed that he had no gift to give, but went to church anyway. On his way there, an angel told him to pick some dried weeds he saw on the side of the road and use them as his gift. The boy did as he was told, and when he reached the church, laid the weeds down next to the other gifts. As he did so, the weeds turned into beautiful flowers. Dr. Joel Poinsetti, the first US ambassador to Mexico, brought the plant to the US, where it was named “Poinsettia.”
The Legend of the Snow Maiden
Once there was an old couple who had no children. One beautiful winter day, they looked out their window and saw the neighborhood children playing in the snow. At that moment, the couple was overcome with their longing for a child and decided to make a little girl out of the snow. As soon as they finished, color came into the little snow girl’s lips and her eyes opened. She had come to life! The couple was overjoyed, and took the girl into their hut. The snow maiden loved the outdoors and was happiest playing with the animals in the winter weather. However, when spring came around, she became sad and would hide from the sun’s light. One day, when summer had arrived, a group of girls from the village called for her to come and play with them. The snow maiden didn’t want to, but the couple encouraged her, and she went out into the meadows with the girls. It grew into evening and the girls lit a fire. The snow maiden, after hanging back from their games all day, finally gave in and joined the other girls around the fire, laughing, singing and dancing. One by one, the girls began to jump over the little fire they had built. Following her new friends, the snow maiden jumped over the fire as well, but halfway through her jump, she suddenly melted and turned into a white cloud. A faint good-bye was heard as she drifted up to the heavens.
Weihnacht’s Legend of the Glass Pickle
A very memorable German tradition is the “legend of the glass pickle”. On Christmas Eve, after the children have been sent to bed, parents scurry to decorate the beautiful tree with ornaments, candies and garland. The last ornament to be placed on the tree is the “Glass Pickle”. With its green color and unique texture it is easily disguised among the branches of the beautiful decorated tree. In the morning when the children awake they rush to the tree, each hoping to be the first to find the glass pickle, because – you see – the one who finds it first is awarded a very special gift. The tradition came to this country and continued through the 1920’s and then faded out. The legend is now just a wonderful memory in our time.
The Christmas/Easter egg ornaments are evocative of those first produced for the Tsars of Russia in the year 1885. In that year Emperor Aleksandr III presented an egg with a series of surprises inside to the Empress. Inside, the “surprises” were made of gold, platinum, precious gems, and enamel. The Tsar liked the gift so much that he presented a new one every year.
Note Many once popular Christmastime legends have been lost in the modern world. We at Tannenbaum Treasures believe that it is important to include these historical themes with selected ornaments. We welcome any additions or suggestions to enhance this collection.
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