Many popular images associated with Christmas are actually rooted in inner spiritual realities. But over time the deeper meaning becomes lost, and the symbol becomes an end unto itself. Perhaps the most iconic symbols are the Christmas tree and Santa Claus.

The use of evergreen wreaths goes back to the prehistory of Egypt, Greece, and Rome, while the more modern decorated Christmas tree was established in medieval Europe. The origins of Santa Claus go back to Saint Nicholas, a fourth-century Christian bishop in Greece famous for giving gifts to the poor.

Spiritual symbolism of the Christmas Tree and Santa Claus

Drawing of Santa Claus by Thomas Nast in 1823.

The modern image of Santa was popularized by the famous poem beginning “’Twas the night before Christmas . . . ,” published in 1823. Our visual image comes from the illustrator Thomas Nast and his drawing of Santa Claus done in 1881, which was later adapted by others for use in advertising. From these roots has grown the jolly man with a red suit, a big belly, and a long, white beard who lives at the North Pole and brings gifts to children who have been good.

But as yogis, it is helpful to look past these cultural symbols and see the inner essence they represent. In this deeper sense, Santa Claus represents deeply seated spiritual memories—a sort of collective consciousness of our divine nature. God dwells within us, especially in the upper (north) chakras, and is joyful, benevolent, and the giver of the gifts of all good qualities and life itself.

The Christmas tree is an outer symbol of the astral spine and the chakras. The tree is an evergreen, maintaining its leaves throughout the winter, and therefore represents immortality. The lights, bulbs, and other ornaments represent inner lights and qualities. Gifts are spiritualized by appropriately being placed underneath the tree, much as they might be placed at the foot of an altar in another culture.

But the outer symbols lose their deeper meaning unless we balance them with inner realization. At Ananda we achieve this balance by celebrating “spiritual Christmas” with an all-day meditation where we try to merge with the Christ Consciousness. This is followed by “social Christmas,” with the usual parties and gift giving. By honoring both inner and outer realities, we find a lovely sense of integration in our lives.

Paramhansa Yogananda expressed this beautifully: “Exchange gifts with the thought of Christ and the thought of giving Him the gift of your heart and receiving the gift of Himself on the Christmas Tree of your calm consciousness, richly decorated and glistening with the Soul-qualities of all those you have met and loved. Through the portal of your meditation, let your imprisoned joy escape to, and rest in, the heart of Christ, which is in everything. Let your joy dance in the farthest planets, over the vastness of the blue, and in the nearest waves of your love. Then you will behold Christ cradled in every manifest thing.”

Happy Christmas,

Nayaswami Jyotish


  1. Dear Nayaswami Jyotish Ji,

    Thank you for the blog :)

    How wonderful it is to know the deeper meaning of SantaClaus, Christmas tree . Thank you for sharing it

    Merry Christmas to you , Devi Ji and to all our Spiritual family :)


  2. Dear Jyotishji,

    Thank you for explaining in detail everything about Christmas which makes it even more enjoyable . Really loved this blog!

    “Merry Christmas to you and Deviji”.

  3. This is why Christmas at Ananda Village is my favorite time of year. It is such a special time to go deeply into the Christ consciousness. May the light of Christ fill all hearts with compassion and unconditional love this holy season!

  4. Am so sorry I pressed post before concluding, still find websites technology so difficult to grasp but will keep on trying. I thank you with all my all for your Blessed good wishes for the Festive Season and also with all of my being I wish you, Devi and All Spiritual Families, indeed All Our Father’s children everywhere, The Most Blessed Happy Season throughout

  5. And a merry Christmas to all of you…it is worth noting also that the 3 wise men were Babaji,Lahiri & Sri Yukestwar..the gifts they brought also have symbolic meaning.

  6. Om Shanti:
    Thanks you for the quot from Paramhansa Yogananda. I will copy and look at it during these O Antiphons.
    Blessing of Light and Peace,

  7. In Divine Gratitude, Joy and Friendship for all we share. Namaste, steve and julie

  8. Thank you Jyotishji for sharing inner meanings of Christmas celebrations explaining spiritual Christmas and social Christmas and their significance; in particular expression of Paramhansa Yogananda on the subject. He showed how individual religious and social practices can transcend to spirituality.

  9. It never ceases to amaze me when a moment of despair tries to bring me down a blessing suddenly appears and a feeling of hope and peace lovingly envelops me. This time the blessing(s) came from first discovering your beautifully calming art work and then this inspired writing on the deeper meanings of our Christmas symbols. I particularly loved how you balance the outer symbols with inner realization of the true light. My anguish has dissapated; the path is clear. I am ready to embrace Christmas with Christ’s grace, prayful reflections of gratitude, and joyful giving.. Thank you. ❤?
    Have A Most Blessed Christmas!!!?????

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