By Deborah Lando / Special to the Triplicate

“Christmas, my child, is love in action.” — Dale Evans

Fresh cedar garlands with ivy stems festoon the fireplace mantel. White and red poinsettias, a brilliant Christmas cactus, and lush, shiny red anthuriums in glorious bloom fill the house. A multitude of Christmas lights glimmer with every glance, while fragrant candles add an ambiance of magic to nightfall.

Decorations gathered over a lifetime and heirlooms alike are lovingly placed to cherish memories, and preserve continuity for the next generation. Holly and mistletoe combine with the unmistakable fragrance of that pinnacle of all holiday décor, the Christmas tree, to spark a remembrance of joyous times with loved ones then and now. This is our opportunity to spread the enchantment of the season to the world around us.

The delight of Christmas that has held me in its wondrous spell from earliest childhood recollection through these, my ‘senior’ years, has only deepened. The story of the birth of Jesus Christ heralded with Angel Gabriel’s announcement of His coming to lift mankind from the darkness has inspired hope to us all throughout the long centuries.

Christmas is richly nuanced through custom and ceremony. While gestured differently across cultures, interpretations are remarkably similar.

The Magi’s gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh have symbolically endured to evoke the understanding of the Christmas spirit as an anointment into a state of incorruptible love. The Christmas tree, known, as xulon, is a word referring to both the cross and a tree, while passages within the New Testament see God having his own Christmas tree in the person of his Son, and his Son’s work.

Jesus with his boughs (arms) spreading across the world gifted mankind with imperishable presents of infinite value; Faith, Hope, Unconditional Love, and Peace on Earth. The tree signifies an everlasting life with God.

This time of year reminds humanity of what holds true value. There is no place for the human concept of wealth, as God’s gifts are free and eternal to eventually lead all souls homeward.

The gifts provided by our Creator through nature are a daily reminder of the blessings that abound. Clean water, nutritious fruits and vegetables, medicinal plants and flowers all bring to mind the adage “As above, so below.” This abundance is proof there is nothing we need that hasn’t been provided to us as promised with God’s great grace.

It is no wonder that everywhere we look Christmas is symbolized in the plant life around us. The shiny, prickly green leaves of the holly represent the crown of leaves that Jesus wore when he was crucified. The red berries symbolize the drops of blood that were shed by the thorns on the leaves. In Scandinavia it is known as the Christ Thorn.

Ivy, as a traditional holiday plant, is dependent on something other than itself for support to grow.

Ivy signifies mankind’s reminder to cling to God for support in our lives.

The poinsettia, perhaps the most widespread and commercially prevalent symbol aside from the Christmas tree, is one of the more recently added icons of Christmas spirit. Discovered in Mexico in 1825 by America’s first ambassador, Joel Roberts Poinsett, the plant was shipped to South Carolina to his greenhouses where propagation and distribution began.

The origin of the poinsettia’s connection to Christmas worldwide lies in the legend of a poor Mexican girl named Pepita. As the story is told, she had no gift to give to the baby Jesus at her village’s Christmas Eve services. Not knowing what to give she picked a handful of weeds by the roadside, and made them into a small bouquet. She was embarrassed, because she had only this small offering to give to Jesus. She remembered her friend Pedro’ assurance that Jesus would appreciate even the smallest gift if given in love. As she placed the bouquet at the bottom of the Nativity scene, they burst into bright red flowers.

Everyone who had witnessed this transformation was sure they had seen a miracle. From that day on these beautiful red flowers were known as the Flowers of the Holy Night. The shape of the poinsettia flower is considered a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem that led the Three Wise Men to Jesus. The red leaves symbolize the blood of Christ and the white a sign of his Purity.

The essence of Christmas and the winter solstice are a time of reflection and a celebration of the promise of new beginnings. It’s time to take inventory of what will endure beyond today’s materialistic trappings.

Like Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol,” perhaps it’s time to make those changes that are long overdue. Maybe you’d like to contact an estranged loved one, or make a list of all the blessings that have come your way. It’s never too late to forgive those who have caused hurt, just as Christ forgave those who had done Him harm.

This time of the year offers each of us the opportunity to add just a little more “Joy to the World.”

Readers may email Deborah Lando at deborah@alfavedicgardens.com or view her website at www.alfavedic.com

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