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What are different types of Christmas imagery?

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Quick Answer

Evergreen trees, Santa Claus and reindeer are all popular examples of secular Christmas imagery and symbols. Christian imagery relating to the holiday tends to center around the Biblical story of the birth of Jesus as related in the Gospel of Luke, including nativity scenes, angels and stars.

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Full Answer

The first nativity scene depicting the stable in which Jesus was born is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. Farm animals, angels, shepherds, and Mary and Joseph are all common figures in a nativity scene. Angels are often standalone religious symbols during the season, typically representing either the angel who visited Mary or the angels who visited the shepherds in the story.

Evergreen trees covered in decorations and lights are among the most recognizable secular symbols in the United States. The Christmas tree has its origin in the pagan celebrations of the winter solstice; eventually the tradition spread to Germany and England, and is now a staple in the American household.

For many children, though, Santa Claus is the quintessential image of Christmas. The story of Santa Claus is actually derived from the life of 4th-century Christian bishop Saint Nicholas. The current image of a jolly, gift-bearing man in a red, fur-trimmed suit accompanied by eight reindeer is based on the famous 1822 Clement Moore poem commonly known as "Twas the Night Before Christmas."

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