The botanical name for the genus of mistletoe is Phoradendron (phor meaning “thief” and dendron meaning “tree” in Greek). As a partly parasitic plant, mistletoe does in fact act like a thief, because it “steals” nutrients from its host tree. But it is only “partly” parasitic, because it has the ability to photosynthesize its own food and survive independently. However, mistletoe is generally found on trees, and it will use whatever means necessary to survive. It has been known to endure extremely harsh weather and even droughts by reaching deep beneath the tree bark of its host to drain water and minerals. Most scholars believe that the “golden bough” is mistletoe on the branch of a tree, since mistletoe can have a golden-like appearance. Interestingly, since the Middle Ages, Virgil’s writing (the author of Aeneid) has come to be viewed as symbolic and even prophetic regarding many aspects of Christianity. Whether there is any merit to this claim or not, the image of a golden branch certainly calls to mind the many Old Testament references to Messiah as the “Branch.” Since the purpose of Virgil’s golden branch was to save Aeneas from the land of the dead, the reflection of Jesus is further emphasized in the Christian mind.
The most common symbolism is as follows:
- The hard candy reminds us that Jesus is our rock. — Psalm 61:2
- The cane shape reminds us of a shepherd’s staff and the shepherds that came to worship Jesus. It also reminds us of how Jesus came into the world to be a shepherd of his people. — Luke 2:8-15 and John 10:11
- The upside-down candy cane forms the letter “J” and reminds us of the name of Jesus which means “God saves.” — Matthew 1:21
- The peppermint flavor reminds us of the gift of spices from the Wise Men. — Matthew 2:11
- The white candy reminds us of purity and holiness. It recalls the virgin birth of Christ, the sinless life of Christ and the holy life that Jesus wants his people to live. — Matthew 1:23 and 1 Peter 1:15
- The color red reminds us that Jesus became a real flesh and blood man and spilled his blood to save his people. — Hebrews 2:14
The colors of red and green also have intriguing biblical relevance, particularly in so far as they represent life. Throughout the Bible, the color red has a strong association with life and blood. Interestingly, the first human life in all creation was a man named “Adam.” The name in Hebrew can be translated as “man” or “red.” This man was created as the first of all human life on earth, but he also became the first to bring death to humanity. When Adam and his wife Eve first sinned against God by eating of the forbidden fruit, they brought death into the world. Since man was the source of death, man would also have to be the solution in overcoming it. Herein lies the dilemma; only God himself could conquer death, and God was not a man. Human blood was required to reverse the consequence of human sin. For this reason, and beyond all comprehension, God chose to become a man.n regard to the color green, it is used frequently throughout the Bible to describe living things in nature: leaves, grass, pastures, plants and trees. Yet, just as sin brought death into the world for man, it brought death and decay to all of nature. The course of nature follows the course of man. After time, all living things wither and die. However, Jesus came to redeem man back to life, and he will do the same for creation.
Santa Claus really is a real person. His name is St Nicholas! Nicholas was born in the 3rd century to wealthy Christian parents in Patara (a harbor city in modern day Turkey). It is probable that Nicholas and his parents could trace their spiritual heritage to the Apostle Paul, who stopped in Patara on his third missionary journey 200 years earlier. It is said that Nicholas’ parents were devout believers who had long prayed for a child. When Nicholas was finally born, they devoted him to God. As an only child, he was raised with great affection and special attention. However, when Nicholas was still a young boy (likely a teenager), a plague struck his city, and both of his parents died. Though a loss like this might turn some away from God, it seems to have drawn Nicholas closer to him. The loss of his parent’s also seems to have made the boy’s heart tender to the suffering of others. Nicholas was left with a large inheritance and decided that he would use it to honor God. He developed such a good reputation in his region that he was chosen as Archbishop of Myra (a harbor city just south and east of Patara) when he was in his early 20s, an indication that he must have demonstrated wisdom and maturity beyond his years.
During his service as Archbishop, a violent persecution of Christians began. Nicholas was almost certainly imprisoned during this time and was likely tortured for his faith. The persecution that began during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian was carried on by his successor, Galerius, for a total of eight long years. Christian leaders who endured this period of persecution earned a tremendous amount of admiration from believers and pagans alike. Had anyone questioned Nicholas’ young age at his appointment as Archbishop, they would no longer express concern. Years of suffering for his faith had most certainly deepened his godly character in a manner worthy of respect. There are an overwhelming number of stories regarding Nicholas’ generosity and even miracles. After his death on December 6, a tradition of gift giving was begun in his honor.