In conversation the other day with a dear friend, Mrs. Libby Heidt, who is a little older and much wiser, she pointed out that her family would go out on Christmas Eve and select and harvest a Christmas tree from their land. It might be a cedar, pine or holly tree.
Together they made decorations of popcorn on strings, colored paper chains or some special handmade ornaments. The tree was not put up way ahead of time like today.
Of course, we all know how commercialized our sacred holiday has become. After all Chritmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. My mind wanders to a recent Christmas song I heard by Becky Kelley on Youtube titled, “Where’s the line to see Jesus?”
We need to be mindful and find our way back to the joy and wonder of the season.
Christians began to reclaim the holiday a few decades ago by making special ornaments for their church Christmas trees. Although ornaments were used in 16th century Europe, it is a fairly recent custom to use Christian symbols to decorate Christmas trees. Thus the Christmons were born. Some are monograms composed of various combinations of letters of the names of Christ or Jesus. They are sometimes called Christograms as well as Christmons.
The primary colors of the ornaments are the liturgical colors of Christmas: white for the purity of the Christ child and gold for Christ the King. They represent the life of Christ and in my church were handmade. I remember the patience as the Lutheran Church Women met weekly throughout a long period of time to painstakingly craft the ornaments. Some were beaded on wire such as the Crown which symbolizes Jesus the King. The trefoil or Trinity represents the three in one, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The sign of the fish was an early secret symbol of Christianity in times of persecution. Wheat symbolizes the bread of life. A sign of resurrection is the butterfly. HIS is from the Greek ISHOYS, meaning Jesus. The shepherd’s crook symbolizes Jesus as the Good Shepard. The cross and circle known as the Celtic cross represents eternal life.
I remember in the 1960s going to help make the ornaments at our church. The patience of Mrs. Lorene Rountree comes to mind as she taught me what to do. The diligence and knowledge of Mrs. Ida Gnann made me understand what we were doing. My mother, Ellen Exley, made many hand cross stitched ornaments of symbols in gold on white backgrounds framed in goldtone that were added to the Christmons on Holy Trinity’s tree. I can’t wait to see this year’s tree to see the white lights and remember all who made that tree what it is today. Year after year the ornaments remind me that Jesus is the reason for the season.
The tree selected is often a natural cedar and never perfect, also symbolizing nature and God’s creation.
Joy can be found in this holiday and these simple symbols remind us to enjoy what is important: our faith, our family and the privilege to worship God thanks to our military that fight to keep our freedom.
This was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org