What are Chrismons? Christian Symbols at Christmas

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Chrismons are Christmas decorations that have Christian symbols on them, and they are traditionally used to adorn Christmas trees in many Christian households and churches. 

Read on to find out more about the Chrismons tradition, where it came from, the meaning of each symbol. PLUS, we have created a free PDF version of the symbols for you to download and print at home. 

examples of Chrismons
Photo: Joan Green Designs

What does Chrismon mean?

The name “Chrismon” is a portmanteau of “Christ Monogram” and signifies the Christian significance of these ornaments. They have been used since the mid-20th century and are particularly popular in the United States.

Chrismons are symbolic decorations that represent the story of Christ from the Bible.

Where does the tradition of Chrismons come from?

The tradition of Chrismons originated in the Lutheran Church in the 1950s by Frances Kipps Spencer at the Ascension Lutheran Church in Danville, Virginia, USA. She wanted to create decorations for her church’s Christmas tree that would more accurately reflect the Christian nature of the holiday.

Christmas Tree decorated with Chrismons
Christmas Tree decorated with Chrismons – source: unknown

What colour are Chrismons?

Chrismons are typically coloured white and gold. White is the liturgical (or Church) colour for Christmas and symbolises that Jesus was pure and perfect. Gold symbolises His Majesty and Glory.

How do you make Chrismons?

Chrismons can be made from nearly anything, but common materials are wire, beads, ribbon, gold thread, and so on.

The symbols used in Chrismons are ancient Christian symbols, and each has its own significance. 

Examples of Chrismons
Examples of Chrismons Symbols

Examples of Chrismons

  1. Cross: The cross is the most recognisable symbol of Christianity, representing Jesus’ sacrifice for humanity’s sins.
  2. Fish: The fish, or ichthys, was a secret symbol used by early Christians to identify each other. It is an acronym for “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Saviour” in Greek.
  3. Alpha and Omega: These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet and represent Jesus as the beginning and the end.
  4. Chi-Rho: This is a monogram of chi (Χ) and rho (Ρ) as the first two letters of Greek Khristos Christ, used as a Christian symbol.
  5. Star of David: This represents the lineage of Jesus through King David and also the Star of Bethlehem which guided the Wise Men.
  6. Dove: The dove symbolises the Holy Spirit.
  7. Butterfly: The butterfly is often used to symbolise the Resurrection of Christ and the eternal life which is granted to all who believe in Him.
  8. Anchor: This ancient Christian symbol represents hope in Christ. The anchor was a hidden symbol of the cross in times of persecution.
  9. Lamb: The lamb symbolises Jesus’ role as the ‘Lamb of God’, a title for Jesus that appears in the Gospel of John.
  10. Crown: This symbol represents the Kingship of Christ. It can also symbolise the victory of the Christian martyrs, or the victory of Jesus over death.
  11. Chalice: Represents the Holy Communion or Eucharist. It is a reference to the Last Supper, the final meal that Jesus shared with his apostles.
  12. Trinity Knot or Triquetra: This Celtic symbol represents the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  13. Shepherd’s Crook (Staff): It symbolises Jesus as the Good Shepherd who guides and looks after his followers.
  14. IHS: This is a monogram or abbreviation for the Greek word for Jesus.
  15. Rainbow: This symbolises God’s promise to Noah that He would never again flood the earth, often seen as a symbol of hope and promise.
  16. Palm Branch: It’s a symbol of victory, triumph, peace, and eternal life originating in the ancient Near East and Mediterranean world.
  17. Nativity Scenes: These depict the birth of Jesus as described in the gospels of Matthew and Luke.
  18. Bread and Wine: These represent the body and blood of Christ, as introduced at the Last Supper.
  19. Shell: The shell symbolises baptism or pilgrimage.
  20. Candle: The candle represents the light Jesus Christ brings to the world.
  21. Lamp: The lamp also symbolises the light Jesus Christ brings to the world.
  22. Keys: The keys represent access to the Kingdom of Heaven.
  23. Scroll: The scroll represents the words and teachings of the Bible.
  24. Ship: The ship represents the ark of Noah in the Bible.
  25. Angel: The angel represents the angels who deliver messages throughout the Bible.

Each of these Chrismons carries a different aspect of Christian teaching and the life of Jesus, and they can all be used to deepen understanding and appreciation of the Christian faith during the Christmas season.

examples of different types of crosses
Types of Crosses

The tradition of Chrismons is typically accompanied by the telling or studying of the stories behind each symbol, reinforcing the Christian teachings and the story of Jesus Christ. Chrismons can be homemade or purchased, and making Chrismons can be a festive holiday activity for families or church groups.

While Chrismons are a more recent development in the long history of Christmas traditions, they embody the same spirit of faith and celebration that has always been central to the holiday. They serve as a reminder of the religious roots of Christmas and provide an opportunity for reflection and teaching about the Christian faith.

Download the printable versions of the Chrismons and crosses

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