Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Chrismon Tree

Chrismon, christian symbolism, Jesus, Christmas

Chrismon, christian symbolism, Jesus, Christmas
When I was young one of the things I looked forward to each holiday season was our church's Chrismon Tree. It was a beautiful tree, towering about 15 foot tall, covered with white and gold ornaments and lit brightly with white twinkling lights. Each year the tree would be on display inside the main sanctuary for the Advent season but without a doubt one of my favorite memories was seeing it glowing bright one last time during our Christmas Eve Candlelight services.  

Chrismon trees typical are put on display during the four weeks of the Advent seasons and are removed following Christmas day. The term “Chrismon” is a combination of the words “Christ” and “Monogram” and literally means the monogram of Christ.  Some people might refer to the Chrismon tree as the Tree of Christ.   Chrismon refers to the special ornaments that are placed on the tree rather than the actual tree – the Chrismon tree being a tree with the Chrismons on it. First displayed in 1957 at Ascension Lutheran Church in Danville, Virginia, each of these Chrismons are symbolic to the life of Jesus Christ. The ornaments are always white and can be made with felt, foam, beads or cloth with gold embellishment such as ribbons, glitter and bead work. Often handmade, Chrismons can be made in a variety of crosses, shapes, objects, letters and numerals.

Chrismon, christian symbolism, Jesus, Christmas
Foam Chrismons make for a great 3 dimensional look
There are roughly 50 symbols that are used as Chrismon ornaments although some trees might have more or less.    There are many books and websites that provide ideas and patterns in making your own ornaments and what each one represents but with a bit of creativity it would be very simple to design your own.   Many people use beads of white and gold threaded on wire to form each shape. I personally love the look of the foam ornaments as they have a really nice 3D look to them.   You could even craft them with salt dough, which the kids will be doing later this week.  No matter how you decide to craft your ornaments, it's a great activity to bring the entire family together while learning about the symbolism each ornament represents.

While it would be hard to list all of the ornaments, there are many books as well as guides online that can help you visualize each of the various ornaments. However, here are a few of them as well as what they represent.   

Chrismon, christian symbolism, Jesus, Christmas, Alpha and Omega
The Alpha and Omega
The Alpha and Omega represents Christ who said “I am the beginning and the end, the first and the last”

The Triangle – represents the Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The Three Intertwining Circles – the eternal quality of the Trinity with no beginning or end.

The Latin Cross – represents the cross that Jesus was crucified on.

The Calvary Cross – represents the Latin Cross standing on a three step platform. The three steps represent Faith, Hope and Love.

The Cross Crosslet – Representing the spreading of Christianity to the four corners of the world.

The Anchor Cross – represents a time when Christians were prosecuted for their faith and used this symbol to avoid persecution.

Chrismon, christian symbolism, Jesus, Christmas, Kingly Crown
The Kingly Crown
The Cup – represents Christ's suffering as referred to in Matthew 26:39 “If possible let this cup pass from me”

The Kingly Crown – The kingship of Christ and his victory over sin and Death – The King of Kings.

The Shell With Drops of Water – symbolizes Baptism.

The Maltese Cross – The eight points symbolize the Beatitudes while the cross itself is an emblem of John the Baptist. It is formed by four spearheads with the points touching the center.

The Trefoil Cross with Dove -Represents a new believer with the dove representing the Holy Spirit

The Sand Dollar - known as the Holy Ghost shell. The markings recall events in the life of Christ.

The Cross and Crown - symbolizes the rewarding life for Christians after the death of the body. And also symbolizes that Jesus is King of Kings.

Chrismon, christian symbolism, Jesus, Christmas, Crown of Thorns and Nails
Crown of Thorns and Nails
The Crown of Thorns and Nails - Symbol of the crucifixion of our Lord

The Lamb - the symbol of Jesus Christ.

Three Fish United to Form a Circle - reminds us that all three persons of the Trinity contribute to our salvation.

Chrismon, christian symbolism, Jesus, Christmas, Triquetra and Circle
Triquetra and Circle

The Son of Righteousness symbolizes that like the sun, Christ the Son of God is the source of light and life to those who believe in Him.

The Triquetra and Circle. The endless circle suggests eternity. The triquetra—the figure composed of three separate and equal arcs— symbolizes the One God who showed himself to man in three separate and distinct persons.

The Angel of God – Symbolizes the angelic announcement of both the birth and the resurrection of Christ.

The Heart – the symbol of charity.

Chrismon, christian symbolism, Jesus, Christmas, Descending Dove
Descending Dovw
The Butterfly – a symbol of the resurrection and life everlasting for the believer.

The Ship – Symbolic of the Church as it was opposed by persecution in early Christianity

The Christmas Rose – The Nativity of our Lord

The Lyre – represents the joy in praising the Lord.

The Descending Dove – symbolizes the Holy Spirit as it descending upon Jesus

The Ark and the Rainbow – Symbolizes God's promise  

Next year, I hope to have a second tree for the inside of our house dedicated solely to the gorgeous Chrismons while the kids have fun learning what each of the beautiful ornaments represent. And maybe they will remember that tree with as much fondness as I still hold towards the one that graces the chapel at First Christian Church in Port Arthur, Texas.   If your ever in that area during the holidays, go take a look at it.  Maybe you'll be even be tempted to add this tradition to your holidays as well.  


  1. In the 1970s, my mother worked in an office of our local hospital. I was a young teen. We were of the Baptist faith and had never heard of Chrismons, but one of Mom's co-workers went to a local Lutheran church. She introduced the idea of Chrismons to the ladies of the hospital. The crafty ones decided that they would all make Chrismons for the company tree that Christmas. There were plenty of how-to materials passed out for those who did not know exactly how to start. My mother loved crafting and jumped headlong into the idea. I liked learning new things, and my mother and I were not extremely close, so making the Chrismons gave us a chance to do something constructive together. We had the most fun ever! I am 57 now and still recall working on them with my mother just like it was yesterday! It was a wonderful experience. My mother died 5 years ago and I am still going through some of her things. Last week, I found 5 of those beautiful glass beaded ornaments that had survived more than 40 years. I plan on displaying them on my tree next year. Thanks for the memories!

  2. I am planning to have families make Chrismons this summer for next Christmas and would love patterns or directions.

  3. I am Loki g for crossstitch Christ on patterns for my tree. Any resources?


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