As far back as anyone can remember, animals have been a central part of Christmas celebrations. These animals have been instrumental in the development of the stories of the holiday and date back all the way to the origin and birth of Christianity. The creatures of old—the camel and the owl for example—are not very common in present-day festivities. Some of the newer generation of Christmas animals that revolve primarily around myths and newer periods of celebration include the reindeer and polar bears. The miniatures of these animals are hung on the Christmas tree according to their significance. Read on to know more on the animals associated with the joyous festival of Christmas.
Reindeer are symbolic of good fortune and joy in abundance. They are happy creatures, who are most closely associated with Santa Claus. Reindeer are one of the first beasts of provision - meaning the first upon humankind relied for food, supplies, warm clothing, and tools. This puts the Reindeer on high status - worthy of honoring - and so it is an animal of nobility, worthiness and is symbolic of continuance.
Camels and Donkeys
These are the “go-to” animals of the Christmas story; it is said that they brought the three Magi to the birth scene of Jesus Christ. The donkey is believed to have carried Mary and baby Jesus into Bethlehem which is why it is of religious importance and is directly linked to Christmas today.
Sheep are an integral part of the Nativity Scene and are also popular animals associated with renewal, purification and compassion. Sheep are used as decorative items on the tree as a symbol of loyalty and devotion.
Many Scandinavians, as well as Americans of Nordic descent, include the figure of a Yule goat as a prominent Christmas decoration. It is also used as food in some Christmas feasts. And still other communities set up straw goats during Christmas as a part of historical tradition.
Birds such as the robin, the wren, penguins and doves are all linked with Christmas. Most of the time, these birds come in the form of traditional Christmas motifs and are mentioned in the Bible. The turtle dove is also mentioned in the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas. Birds are popular Christmas decorations for the house, the tree, etc., and often symbolize the coming of good news and family happiness.
There will never be an exact count of how many animals are associated with Christmas. A few of the other animals such as dogs, bees, pigs and cows are all believed to have a direct relationship to the holiday. At the end of the day, personal belief and cultural preference are all-important to the celebration.
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