Ever wonder where some of the Christmas traditions came from? Why do we have lights on the Christmas tree, hang wreaths on the door, and munch on candy canes? Years ago I came across a story I'd like to share. Using this story I created small toy bags with the items inside that I purchased from local craft stores around Christmas time. I made the bag from a piece of felt and used a ribbon to lace through the top to close it. I bought in miniature a star, a bell, a candle, a wreath, a fir tree, a bow, a red Christmas ornament, and a candy cane.
Here is the story:
Just a week before Christmas, I had a visitor. This is how it happened. I had just finished the household chores for the night and was preparing to go to bed when I heard a noise in the front of the hosue. I opened the door of the front room, and to my surprise, Santa Claus himself stepped out from behind the Christmas tree. He placed his fingers over his mouth so I would not cry out.
"What are you doing..." I started to ask, but the words choked up in my throat as I saw he had tears in his eyes. His usual jolly manner was gone--gone was the eager, boistrous soul we all know.
He then answered me with a simple statement of "teach the children." I was puzzled. What did he mean? He anticipated my question and with one quick movement brought forth a miniature toy bag from behind the tree. As I stood there bewildered, Santa said again, "Teach the children. Teach them the old meaning of Christmas--the meanings that Christmas nowadays has forgotten."
I started to say, "how can I..." when Santa reached into the toy bag and pulled out a brilliant shiny star. "Teach the children the star was the heavenly sign of promise long ages ago. God promised a savior for the world and the star was a sign of the fulfillment of that promise. The countless shining stars at night - one for each man--now show the burning hope of all mankind." Santa gently laid the star upon the fireplace mantle and drew forth from the bag a glittering red Christmas tree ornament.
"Teach the children red is the first color of Christmas. It was first used by the faithful people to remind them of the blood which was shed for all the people by the Savior. Christ gave His life and shed His blood that every man might have God's gift of Eternal Life. Red is deep, intense, vivid--it is the greatest color of all. It is the symbol of the gift of God."
"Teach the children," he said as he dislodged a small Christmas tree from the depths of the toy bag. He placed it before the mantle and gently hung the red ornament on it. The deep green of the fir tree was a perfect background for the ornament. Here was the second color of Christmas.
"The pure green color of the stately fir tree remains green all year round," he said. "This depicts the everlasting hope of mankind. Green is the youthful, hopeful, abundant color of nature. All the needles point heavenward--symbols of Man's returning thoughts toward heaven. The great green tree has been man's best friend. It has sheltered him, warmed him, made beauty for him." Suddenly, I heard a sort of tinkling sound.
"Teach the children that as the lost sheep are found by the sound of the bell, it should ring for man to return to the fold - it means guidance and return. It further signifies that all are precious in the eyes of the Lord. As the soft sound of the bell faded into the night, Santa drew forth a candle. He placed it on the mantle and the soft glow from its tiny flame cast a glow about the darkened room. Odd shapes in shadows slowly danced and weaved upon the walls.
"Teach the children," whispered Santa, "that the candle shows man's thanks for the star of long ago. Its small light is the mirror of starlight. At first, candles were placed on the trees--they were like many glowing stars shining against the dark green. The colored lights have now taken over in remembrance."
Santa turned the small Christmas tree lights on and picked up a gift from under the tree. He pointed to the large bow and said, "A bow is palced on a present to remind us of the spirit of the brotherhood of man. We should remember that the bow is tied as man should be tied, all of us together, with the bonds of good-will towards each other. Good-will forever is the message of the bow."
Santa slung his bag over his shoulder and began to reach for the candy cane placed high on the tree. He unfastened it and reached out toward me with it.
"Teach the children that the candy cane represents the shepherd's crook. The crook on the staff helps bring back the strayed sheep to the flock. The candy cane represents the helping hand we should show at Christmas time. The candy cane is the symbol that we are our brothers' keepers."
As Santa looked about the room, a feeling of satisfaction shone in his face. He read wonderment in my eyes, and I am sure he sensed admiration for this night.
He reached into his bag and brought forth a large holly wreath. He placed it on the door and said, "Please teach the children the wreath symbolizes the eternal nature of love; it never ceases, stops, or ends. It is one contiuous round of affection. The wreath does double duty. It is made of many things and in many colors. It should remind us of all the things of Christmas. Please, teach the children."
I had such fun making these little bags and handing them out to family and friends. I hope you do, too!