The language of symbols is deeply rooted in the human psyche.
Symbols speak to us daily whether we are aware of them or not. So
much stored memory of symbols and their meanings gives us our
intuitive understanding of things and events around us.
The Christmas tree is now an almost universal symbol and can no
longer be regarded as exclusively a Christian symbol as the name in
In the Scandinavian (Norse) tradition, the Yule tree was an evergreen fir, brought into
the home to remind of the life force that survives even during
barren winter months, and to commemorate the end of one life cycle
and the beginning of a new.
In antiquity, the pine tree was dedicated to Attis and Cybele,
shown in ancient Greece as decorated with glittering ornaments. In Japan, the pine tree
is the symbol of longevity and enduring friendship.
Not until the 19th century did the evergreen fir enter into the
Christian holiday Christmas, via Albert, Queen Victoria's consort,
who brought the tradition with him from Germany to England.
Tree jewelry is therefore a symbol of the ever-present life force
when personal circumstances seem dark and hopeless.
considered a Christian symbol today, as they frequently are
depicted in Christian art, were known in many cultures preceding
The Sumerians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans believed
in divine messengers and portrayed them also as human-like beings,
with wings. Hinduism and Islam also recognize angels.
In Judaism, the archangels represent aspects of God, and protect
against evil. The attributes of Michael is a sword, of Gabriel, a
lily. Uriel holds a book, and Raphael, a staff. The attributes
represent, respectively, courage and righteousness, innocence and
faith, learning and wisdom, and the pilgrim's arduous journey to a
In all cultures and beliefs, angels have been considered guardians
of mortals, to guide and protect them on life's journey. Angel jewelry therefore symbolizes trust
and belief that God, via his messengers, will protect from evil.
The rabbit and hare are considered symbolic of
the Christian holiday Easter, where the hare's swiftness signifies
the passing of life. But, the rabbit (or hare) is equally a symbol in many other religions and cultures, including the pagan ones.
The name of the Saxon goddess of spring, Eostre or Oestra, gave its
name to Easter. This goddess had the head of a hare, thus the
Easter bunny and the Easter egg symbols of life renewal.
In ancient Greece, the hare was sacred to Hermes (Mercury), the
messenger, and in Rome to Venus and Cupid, as a symbol of love and
Older than Christianity, the symbolism of the hare is thus a
celebration of life's continuation with rebirth, as in each spring,
and the rabbit jewelry expresses hope that life will
be renewed, and better than before.
The Easter hen, rooster, and chicks, also have symbolic roots in
early cultures. The hen symbolizes Mother Earth, as she faithfully
lays her eggs to ensure continuation of life, the chicks
representing young new life. In ancient Greece, the rooster, cock,
or cockerel, was believed to salute the rising sun when crowing at
dawn, and was looked upon as Apollo's sacred symbol. In China, the rooster is one of the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac, where it
stands for courage and honesty, but also arrogance and conceit.
In Christianity, the cock first symbolized Christ's passion as the
cock crowed three times after He was denied by Peter. In later
Christianity, the symbol of the cock came to mean repentance and
resurrection. Its symbolism as vigilant against evil can be seen on
weathervanes (also called weathercocks), often atop church
steeples. Its meaning at Easter is clear: Resurrection.
The wreath symbolizes the eternal and
never-ending circle of life, and also love.
The candle, the light of hope present in the
darkest hour, is also a reminder that life is as fleeting as the
flicker of its flame.
The poinsettia, a traditional Christmas plant in
the English-speaking world, blooms in winter time, its leaves not
changing to red (or white) until light is upon them, symbolizing
change for the good in the face of adversity.
The holly promises faithfulness, constancy under
change, the leaves not turning brown or falling off during the cold
Bells symbolize the announcement of the new
following the old.
The candy cane, the staff of Joseph, symbolizes
the promise of sweeter times if we but stay on the path, as well as
a reward at journey's end.
Santa Claus, the jolly
old elf, is depicted in many countries, not always in the same
guise. In Holland, where Saint Nicholas was revered as the
protector of children, Santa Claus is shown as a kind but stern
grandfather figure, the rod in one hand, the reward in the other.
The American and English versions of Santa Claus first appeared in Punch Magazine
in England, in Victorian times, and also on the cover of Saturday
Evening Post, in the 1880s, in the United States. Saint Nicholas,
the protector and disciplinarian of children is another
representation of the paternal image.
In Scandinavia, the nisse, or tomte, is a wizened tiny elf (or gnome) who
lives hidden on farms, can be mischievous, and must be appeased at
Yule tide with a bowl of fresh porridge put out for him in the
barn. Unless antagonized, the nisse looks out for the farmer's family and animals, and is said to quietly repair broken areas
without so much as a noise. He symbolizes the silent and unassuming
good forces in humans and in nature, to be treasured and rewarded,
not ignored nor abused.
Holiday jewelry has traditionally only been worn in the United
States, Canada, England and Australia, until recent years. In most
other countries in Europe, holiday jewelry was not worn at all, but
this is changing. Liz, born and raised in Scandinavia, was
new to holiday jewelry before arriving in the United States. It is
heartening to note that the custom of wearing and collecting
beautiful and symbolic holiday jewelry now seems to be spreading
all over the world.
The beautiful holiday jewelry shown in this article, under the text
links, is linked courtesy of these online readers. Some of the
jewelry is available to buy by contacting the owners directly by
email at their websites.