Every year about this time my children and my grandchildren ask me to explain certain legends and traditions associated with the meaning of Christmas. I had become so popular in my community that I began going to the different church gatherings, family parties, and even office parties to explain the legends and traditions. I felt that this year since I am no longer able to go about doing this that I would write this explanation of many of the traditions behind the different things that we use or heard about concerning Christmas. Many of these legends are already in print and told over and over again to those of great interest. I may have duplicated some of the “Legends” but not with any great intentions as legends go they are repeated sometimes word by word and sometimes they differ in content and words. I hope that every one enjoys each of these little short stories as they are meant to be “Legends and Traditions” meant for all passed down through the centuries.
“Legend of the Rooster” “Misa Del Gallo”
As stated by Legend the Rooster only crowed one time at midnight and that was when “Jesus” was born. From that time on the Rooster Crowed at dawn of each morning symbolizing the daily triumph of light over darkness and the victory of good over evil.
“The Legend of the Robin”
The night that Christ was born a little brown bird shared the stable with the Holy Family. During the night, Joseph built a fire to keep the family warm, but as they slept, the fire began to burn out. As stated by the Legend The Robin flew from its nest and fanned the embers with its wings to keep them warm. The little brown bird was so close to the fire that the heat turned the bird’s feathers red. The breast of the Robin has been red ever since to remind us of its love and compassion for the baby Jesus.
“The Legend of the Cardinal”
The Cardinal Christened the “Christmas Bird” for its spectacular red color. Legend proclaims that the Cardinal is the symbol of beauty and warmth of the holiday season. A glimpse of this brilliant bird brings cheer, hope and inspiration on a gray wintery day. This is nature’s reminder for us to focus on our faith; the Cardinal’s scarlet plumage represents the blood of Christ shed for the redemption of mankind.
“The Legend of the Hummingbird”
The hummingbird symbolizes love, joy and beauty. The hummingbird is unique in that it can fly backwards, teaching us that we can look back at our past, but not dwell there, but continue to go forward. Its ability to hover while drinking nectar is a lesson for us to savor each moment, while appreciating its sweetness.
“The Legend of the Poinsettia”
Legend tells about a boy who had no gift to put by the figure of baby Jesus in church on Christmas Eve. On his way to Mass, he prayed before God and the Angels to forgive him for not having an offering. While he knelt down at a window outside the Church Altar his tears flowed and when he looked down behold a beautiful flower had grown. He picked the flower and laid it by “Mary” in the stable. Joel Robert Poinsett, a native of South Carolina brought the Poinsett home with him in 1829 and found that it grew very well in his green house. The Poinsettia now blooms every year around Christmas. Dr. Joel Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico brought the plant to the United States where it was named “poinsettia.” The “Red Poinsettia” represents the blood that Jesus shed for our sins. The “White Poinsettia” represents that he was a pure gift given to us by God.
This Legend also exists about the Poinsettia in that “The Star of Bethlehem” shone so brightly that night upon the cold darkness of the earth that the earth wanted to respond by producing the plant, which is, mirrored the “Star” by producing “White Petals” with a “golden star” in the center. When Jesus died upon the cross many of the flowers petals turned red representing the blood that he shed but others remained white reminding us of his purity.
“The Legend of the Chili Pepper”
The Chili Pepper began its legend in the southwestern part of America becoming a tradition symbolizing warmth and friendship. Clusters of the vibrantly colored chili peppers called “chili ristras” add a zesty flair to home décor. When the peppers hung near the kitchen door legend says that this will ensure a bountiful harvest and when placed inside the kitchen to hang on the walls it means that they will bring good luck to the cook. Chilis are a spicy addition to many cuisines worldwide.
“The Legend of the Donkey”
The Legend dictates that the fabled “Donkey” was cursed then he was blessed. The Donkey who carried “Mary” to Bethlehem when she was about to give birth to Jesus paid no attention to where he walked and stumbled. For this, he was cursed, never to be able to mate with an other “Donkey” to have baby “Donkey’s”. However, Legend tells us that the donkey that carried Jesus to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday followed him to Calvary. This donkey was so appalled at the sight of Jesus on the cross that he turned away but could not leave. It is said that the shadow of the cross fell upon his shoulders and back making the marking of the cross, which is found on many “Donkeys” today, and it remains a testimony of the love and devotion of a humble, little creature, “The Donkey.”
“The Legend of Our Lady of Guadalupe”
Legend tells us that in 1531 near Mexico City, the Virgin Mary miraculously appeared before Juan Diego, an Aztec Indian converted into Catholic Christianity. She urged him to have the city’s bishops build a shrine, but they did not believe Diego. The virgin reappeared with roses, impossible to grow in winter, as proof. He showed the bishops the roses wrapped in his cloak, which miraculously imprinted with the image of the Virgin. Mexicans still pilgrimage to the Basilica of Guadalupe on December 12. in honor of Mexico’s patron saint, “The Lady of Guadalupe.” She is the defender of little children everywhere and the protectors of their mothers.
These are some very fine legends that are a part of the Mexican Culture. Just as the culture dictates this is the time of the year that we learn to share our love to others all around the world. The following are stories and legends from different parts of the world that developed over the centuries by many people.
“Our Lady Of Czestochowa”
Legend tells us that St. Luke painted the portrait of Mary and Jesus knows as “Our Lady of Czestochowa”. It was brought to Poland in 1382 and kept at the shrine of Jasna Gora. In 1430, an attack on the shrine left the image with several gashes to the Madonna’s face. Despite repeated attempts to repair them, they have always reappeared. Since that time there have been many miracles attributed to the painting. In 1656, King Jan Kazimierz proclaimed the shrine to be spiritual capital for Poland. Through Poland’s often-painful history, it has been a symbol of hope in times of hardship. Today the shrine of Jasna Gora in Czestochowa continues to attract millions of visitors annually who honor its miraculous image.
“The Legend of the Candy Cane”
An American Legend
A candy maker in Indiana wanted to make a candy that would glorify God so he came up with the idea of ”The Candy Cane” He began with a stick hard candy that was white, this represents the rock of ages and the white symbolizes purity of the Christmas Season. The first red stripe was larger because it represented the blood that Jesus shed for our salvation. The other three red stripes represented the stripes he received by the Roman Soldiers. The ones with green stripes are a reminder of God giving us a gift his son. The flavor Peppermint is similar to hyssop, which is in the mint family. In the Old Testament, hyssop used for purification and sacrifice amongst the priests. Jesus is the pure lamb of God come to be sacrificed for the sins of the world. The candy is formed into a “J” to represent the precious name of Jesus. It can also represent the staff of the “Good Shepherd” Its hard consistency represents the “Solid Rock”, the foundation of the church, and the firmness of the promises of God. Whenever you eat the candy cane, remember the sermon that it provides for the whole world: Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, is the sinless Rock of Ages who suffered and died for our sins.
“The Legend of the Mistletoe”
In winter, trees lose their leaves revealing the perennially greenMistletoe.Christians proclaimed the Mistletoe as a sign of eternal life. The Mistletoe also became a symbol used by single people and married couples to get a “kiss.”
“The Legend of Holly”
The Legend of “The Holly” states that the pointy leaves represent the thorns ofChrist’s Crown that he wore when he was crucified. The perennially green leaves represent eternal life. The red berries are for the blood he shed for our salvation. There are some berries that are not red but have white berries, which represent Jesus purity, green berries if the cross of wood and the black berries represent that he died and at times is still used in Christian Funerals. There is another Legend that states a poor Shepherd Boy made a wreath of the HollyBush to offer the Christchild but wept because that it had little value. The tears touched the leaves as they gleamed from his teardrops red berries appeared. The Holly Wreath became a tradition as a reminder of the “Miracle of Christ’s Birth.”
“The Legend of Rosemary”
The Legend of Rosemary states that “Mary” wearing blue when Christ was born had laid her cloak on the Rosemary Bush while trying to escape the soldiers of Herod turned the bush Blue. The Rosemary Bush normally only lives 33 years the age of Christ when he was crucified but If the Bush lives longer it cannot grow up it will only grow outward.
The Legend of The Christmas Tree
The Legend of the Evergreen Tree began when Joseph and Mary were trying to escape into Egypt the trees in the forest brought forth green needles and their white berries turned blue to hide them and the beautiful cloak of blue that Mary wore. The trees from this point remained green all year long giving hope of “Life Eternal.”
The Pine Tree with Pinecones
This Legend tells us that it was the Pine Tree that hid the Holy Family on their escape from Herod’s soldiers and while hid amongst the “Pine Cones” baby Jesus stretched forth his tiny hand leaving his handprint. Cut open a pinecone and you will see the hand print of a tiny baby named as Jesus.
It is also known that St. Boniface in the 8th century happened upon a group of Germanic people who were about to sacrifice a small child had him tied to the Oak Tree upon seeing this, St. Boniface, with one mighty blow chopped down the tree. A small Fir Tree sprouted from its stump. This remains as a reminder that the Germanic people stopped worshiping other Gods but turned to Christianity. The Fir Tree is a symbol of a new way of life that leads to “Eternal Life”.
The Legend of The Advent Wreath
Advent is the event that all Christians use to proclaim the coming of Jesus, the light, into the world. The wreath consists of four candles mounted around a circumference of an evergreen wreath. One candle is lit each Sunday starting four weeks before Christmas. One candle is pink to be lit on Christmas Day. The wreath may have a fifth candle inside the wreath that Christians light on Christmas Eve. The circle of the Advent Wreath represents “Eternal Life.” There are various traditions behind the candles that state meanings about each of the candles. One tradition labels them the Prophet’s Candle, the Bethlehem candle, the Shepherd’s candle (pink) and the Angel’s candle. These represent the Good News of Jesus Christ birth. The Good News came through the Prophets, was born in Bethlehem, was witnessed by the Shepherds and proclaimed by a host of Angels. The other traditions labels the candles as hope for the future, the love of God, joy of the spirit and peace on earth this is the nature of the Good News.
The Legend of the Christmas Candle
It is told that the practice of placing candles in the windows in December probably originated in pre Christian times as part of the winter solsticecelebrations.Christian began a new legend that many people use today whenever a love one is away to welcome them home or to invite anyone stranded into safety away from the cold. The Christian Legend is told thusly, many years ago, an old cobbler and his wife lived in a small village in Austria and even though they were poor, they shared what ever they owned with others who passed their way. The couple left a candle in the window of their cottage as a sign of hospitality to any traveler who needed shelter.
Over the years, the village had been plagued with many wars and famine but the cobbler and his wife suffered much less than their neighbors. The villagers gathered together on the night before Christmas to discuss their plight and determined that there was something special about the cobbler and hiswife. They questioned why they were always spared from misfortunes. Finally, one of the villagers surmised that the charm was the candle in their window. The villagers all decided to place a candle in there window and that night every window had a light and a messenger passed the village with the great newsthat peace had finally come! The villagers gave thanks to God and vowed always put a lighted candle in there window every Christmas Eve. This beautiful custom spread throughout the world and each Christmas millions of candles light up our world with their message of love, and everlasting joy.
The Legend of Saint Nicholas
(Alias Santa Claus)
The legend that surrounds Saint Nicholas began in 280 AD it is about a man who was born to wealthy parents in Patera in Asia Minor. At an early age he was orphaned and raised by monks, he began a Christian Ministry that helped those who were in need. At one time, he was imprisoned for his faith but that never deterred him from giving to those who were in need. He was known for begging for food to give to the poor. He helped to feed the children and provide a place for them off the streets. Some historians claim that St. Nicholas died in 343 AD but many children believe that he is still alive giving out presents every Christmas celebration of Christ’s birth. Today Santa Claus was developed by the American Business World as a means to advertise and promote products for sale to people to give as gifts for the Holiday. Santa Claus has grown all around the world in legend and customs and the name means many things to many people. The best meaning is that he represents
“Love and Kindness to All mankind”.
Why Is Christmas in December?
The bible tells us that this was God’s appointed time for the birth of Jesus his son. Consider some facts that might help you make sense of the “Birth ofJesus” in the month of December. The shortest day of the year falls around December 22nd, which is the darkest day of the year. This is the day with the least amount of sunlight. Many cultures recognized this and often held festivals to celebrate the return of the sunlight. The Romans put lights in their windows to call back the sun while the Germanic peoples were known to decorate evergreen trees because they were a sign that the sun would return. Jesus is the light of the world so it is no accident that he would be born this time of the year when darkness and coldness were the worst. God sent the light and warmth of eternal Love in Christ. Over the centuries, many Christians recognized this factor and adopted the practice of using lights and lamps as symbols of Christ. Christian symbols like angels and stars were given prominence in adorning evergreen trees.
When you turn on your Christmas Tree Lights remember that Jesus, the light and life of God, came into the darkness of our lives.
“The 12 Days of Christmas”
This song had a great purpose as a teaching tool amongst Christians who were not allowed to instruct their children in the meaning of the Christian Faith. From 1858 to 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not allowed to practice their faith openly. This song was taught to the children.
Abigail our today’s child!
- The “partridge in a pear tree” was Jesus Christ who died on a tree as a gift from God.
- The “two turtle doves” were the Old and New Testaments- another gift from God.
- The “three French hens” were faith, hope and love- the three gifts of the spirit that abide (I Corinthians 13).
- The “four calling birds” were the four Gospels, which sing the song of salvation through Jesus Christ.
- The “five golden rings” were the first five books of the Bible also called the “Books of Moses.”
- The “six geese a-laying” were the six days of creation.
- The “seven swans a swimming” were the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (the seven sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church).
- The “eight maids a milking” were the eight beatitudes.
- The “nine ladies dancing” were nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23).
- The “ten lords a-leaping” were the Ten Commandments.
- The “eleven pipers piping” were the eleven faithful disciples.
- The “twelve drummers drumming” were the twelve points of the Apostles’ Creed.
I always like to think that all children at this time of year are told the story of the birth of Jesus Christ. I hope that you too share with your children and any children you can the true meaning of Christmas. God Bless, writershirley
“The Legend of The Joy Bells”
This is one of my most favorite stories that I often taught in Sunday School to many of the young people who were in my classes. When the bells of Christmas ring out for “Joy”, they are telling that Jesus Christ is born. The word “JOY” has a very special meaning: in that, it tells us how to put “Joy” in our lives now that “Jesus” Christ is born. It is very simple three Step process.