Christmas is a rich and varied tradition, celebrated in many cultures across the globe. Despite the evolution of this celebration -- whose origin may be that of the pagan solstice, adopted into Christianity -- many of its Western customs and iconography are in practice regardless of culture or country, especially with images associated with the birth of Christ. Take a look at what your Yuletide ornaments mean and where they originated from.
Placed on top of the Christmas tree or used as lanterns -- otherwise called the "parol," a popular Filipino icon of the seasons -- the star stands for the Star of Bethlehem. According to the Gospel of Matthew, this star heralded the birth of Christ and led the Magi -- known as the Three Kings -- to Jesus' birth place.
Use of evergreen branches and plants -- the Christmas tree included -- dates back before Christianity or the birth of Christ. Originally a pagan custom in Germany, bringing evergreen boughs into the home during the winter was thought to repel evil spirits. Meanwhile, their evergreen leaves stood for life and good cheer amid darkness.
The Christmas tree
Rooted in the pagan tradition of hanging evergreen boughs in the winter, the Christmas tree was chosen because it pointed up to Heaven. Additionally, its triangular shape is symbolic of the Holy Trinity, according to the missionary Saint Boniface.
Red, green, and gold
The iconic colors of the Yuletide season, these three colors each symbolize a critical aspect of Christmas: red stands for the blood of Christ, shed in his crucifixion; green stands for eternal life, as per the use of evergreen boughs and the Christmas tree; gold stands for royalty, and is also one of the three gifts of the Magi.
The candy cane stands for the shepherd's staff or crook, which is used to guide lost lambs back into the fold.
Like the candy cane or shepherd's staff, the ringing of bells is thought to bring lost sheep back home, symbolizing how Christ would come to bring all back to God, as per the Christian religion.
Made of evergreen boughs wrought into a circle, the Christmas wreath symbolizes the eternal love of Christ.