Friday Advent Adventures: Chrismon

Chrismon Tree
Image by Scott Schram via Flickr

I thought by the time I’d done enough research to write a book, a dozen or two blog posts, and a research-heavy article, I’d know about everything there is to know about Advent and Christmas. Well, guess what? Thanksgiving weekend, I learned something new, and very cool.

My mother-in-law and I were looking at Christmas stuff at Frameworks, my favorite local store. My eye kept catching on these lovely butterflies clipped to the trees alongside the poinsettias and holly berries. They were so pretty, I thought, waffling as I fingered the beaded gauze. But like birds, nests, and so on, what makes them belong on a Christmas tree? I know there’s some symbolism about a bird and a nest—something about good luck, I think—but sticking a butterfly on a Christmas tree is just taking it too far. “No,” I said, “they’re so pretty, but what does a butterfly have to do with Christmas?”

“It’s a Chrismon,” said a voice on the stairs beside me, and my mother-in-law and I looked up. “There are a bunch of them, they’re symbols of Christ: butterfly, dove, angel, cross…I can’t remember them all. But that’s what they’re called. Chrismon.”

Being an all-things-Advent kind of gal these days, you can imagine that upon returning home I ditched the family and headed straight for the computer. As it turns out, Chrismons are not actually about Christmas, but they are about Christ (thank you, Wiki). Think Christ Monogram. Each one symbolizes a fragment of the mystery that defines us as Christians. A lot like the Jesse Tree symbols, actually, only focused on Christ himself instead of Christ’s genealogy.
(Image from Ft. Worth 1st United Methodist’s terrific page)

A quick internet search yielded the usual deluge of hits: Wiki, patterns for symbols (this one is my favorite of those I’ve seen so far), and a terrific history of the “Chrismon Tree.” The Alpha and Omega (Christ as beginning and end of all things); many forms of the cross (to focus on Crucifixion, on kingship, etc); the 5-point star cross (symbol of the Epiphany to the Gentiles), and so on.

Boy, do I wish I’d found these before I wrote Joy to the World! There’s another whole chapter waiting there. 🙂 It’s too late for us to incorporate these symbols this year—our family’s plans are already set. But I guarantee this will be a craft project for a future year in the Basi Family Advent calendar. And here’s where you come in.

It’s Your Turn!

What do you think, intrepid Advent celebrateurs? How would you (or do you) use these symbols during the season? On the Christmas tree? In a mobile hung from the ceiling? Taped to the windows? What resources should we all have, especially online resources?