CHRIST AS THE CHRISTMAS ROSE

The Christmas Rose (helleborus niger) is a perennial herb with lobed leaves and a white five-pedal flower (image; it is blooming in midwinter and therefore is called the Christmas Rose. Because it blooms in early Spring in some regions it is often also called the Lenten Rose (Britannica, vol. 11, p. 402, 1960).

While in the U.S. the Poinsettia has become the preferred Christmas flower, German decorations use the symbol of the Christmas rose, frequently with an evergreen branch. It can be found on table clothes, napkins, wrapping paper and Christmas cards.

Christ as the rose is a common theme which runs through the whole Bible. Martin Luther adopted it as his coat of arms and insignia. For the Harmonists, first settlers of New Harmony, Indiana, a golden rose was their symbol for Christ. Frederick Rapp carved a golden rose above the door of the Harmonist church.

Below is a favorite German Christmas song depicting Christ as the "Christmas Rose." You will find an English version in some hymnals. Here is an audio (midi) file of:

ES IST EIN' ROS' ENTSPRUNGENBEHOLD A BRANCH IS GROWING
Es ist ein' Ros' entsprungen
aus einer Wurzel zart.
Wie uns die Alten sungen,
von Jesse kam die Art.
Und hat ein Blümlein bracht
mitten im kalten Winter
Wohl zu der halben Nacht

Das Blümlein, das ich meine
davon Jesaias sagt,
hat uns gebracht alleine
Marie, die reine Magd.
Aus Gottes ew'gen Rat
hat sie ein Kind geboren,
Wohl zu der halben Nacht.

Wir bitten dich von Herzen,
Maria Rose zart:
Durch dieses Blümleins Schmerzen
die es empfunden hat,
willst uns verhilflich sein,
dass wir ihm mögen schaffen
ein Wohnung hübsch und fein

Behold a branch is growing
of lov'liest form and grace,
as prophets sung, foreknowing;
it springs from Jesse's race
and bears one little flow'r
in midst of coldest winter,
at deepest midnight hour.

Isaiah hath foretold it
in words of promise sure,
and Mary's arms enfold it,
a virgin meek and pure.
Thro' God's eternal will
this child to her is given
at midnight calm and still.

O savior, child of Mary,
who felt our human woe;
O savior, king of glory
who dost our weakness know,
bring us at length, we pray,
to the bright courts of heaven
and to the endless day.

Ruth Reichmann


OTHER RESOURCES

  • A recipe for Christrosen
  • Nice collection of images from Christrosen.de
  • More on Christmas crib sets, symbols and decorations on my Christmas Tree site.
  • St. Barbara and the Barbarazweig. The Christmas Tree - Tannenbaum.
  • Holly and Midwinter Solstice.

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