Poinsettia, tinsel angel, ox and donkey, speculoos or Hans Muff – every day during Advent, customs researcher Dr. Manfred Becker-Huberti a symbol from the world of customs. Catholic feasts are always sensual feasts: you can see, hear, smell, taste, touch every Catholic feast…

And every feast smells different, tastes different, looks different – feasts are catholic when they appeal to soul and heart, faith and mind. The custom does not replace liturgy, but plants the festive message in everyday life. Apples, nuts and almonds Who today still knows the symbolic value of "apples, nuts and almonds"?? "God gives the nuts, but man has to crack them himself."Nuts and almonds are symbols of life, showing that something special has to be worked for as hard as a nut kernel, which requires the nut to be cracked. Many would not even directly describe the apple as an object symbolic of Advent and Christmas. And yet the apple is a very special fruit, house fruit of Advent and of Christmas at the same time.Proverbially, the apple came into play through the analogical thinking of our ancestors: What sounds the same must also be the same, our ancestors thought. When the apple (lat. malus) sounds like error, infirmity, evil, suffering, disaster (lat. malus), then the two phenomena must have something to do with each other. The consequence: the fruit on the tree of knowledge in paradise could only have been an apple. The forbidden fruits were represented in Northern Europe by apples – red apples that stood out strongly against the green of the tree. In Southern Europe, the fig was used for the same purpose, symbolically labeling original sin as a sexual act.When it became common practice in the churches to play out biblical events for people who could not read, the Paradise Game was one of the games played on Christmas Eve before Matins. It was performed before the Nativity play, because it explained how original sin entered the world. It was always on 24. December listed, the memorial day for Adam and Eve. The play scene naturally included a "tree of knowledge," which had to be a green tree even in winter, because tree fruit hardly ever hangs on decaying trees! When the game of paradise was over and the game of Christ's birth began, the tree of paradise remained standing, thus providing the long-term template for the later Christmas tree.On the Christmas tree, the red apples and bows symbolize the blood that the newborn will later shed to redeem mankind. That the manger and the cross form a unity, that the newborn is celebrated as the Redeemer and not as a mere infant, people thus expressed in a meaningful way. As the awareness of the content of Christmas and the function and symbolism of the Christmas tree dwindled, aestheticizing elements entered: Tinsel (angel hair), which brings environmental problems, especially if disposed of incorrectly, and Christmas tree balls made of glass, metal and plastic, which served as a substitute for the former apples of paradise. Even further removed are artificial snow, gold chains, etc. Christmas baubles made of glass became possible when Justus von Liebig succeeded in 1870 in Morgenstern near Gablonz in silvering glass bodies from the inside.In addition to our eating or cooking apple, there was the pomegranate, in ancient times a symbol of fertility and immortality. In Christian art it later denotes resurrection. The pomegranate usually appears in connection with Mary and Jesus, but also in the hand of the Ecclesia, the embodiment of the Church. In the profane area it means generosity and patriotism and thus also becomes a symbol of rulership.By Adam's apple we do not mean the "sin fruit" of tree of knowledge. It is the apple that has been growing since 18. Popular term, attested in the eighteenth century, for the shield cartilage of the man, which is moved when swallowing. The naming is based on the thought that a piece of the paradise apple got stuck in the throat of Adam and his male descendants as a punishment or memory. This idea is not limited to Germany: English speaks of Adam's apple, Swedish of adamsapple, France knows the pomme d'Adam. It seems that the term "Adam's apple" has reinterpreted the Hebrew term "tappuach ha adam" = "protruding shield cartilage of the man", because the Hebrew tappuach means the "elevation" (on the human body) and at the same time "apple", the Hebrew "adam" on the other hand is the term for man or human being. This probably led to the fact that – over the equation of the generic term man with the name of the first man – Adam got the paradise apple symbolically stuck in the throat and became the Adam's apple.The series of special apples ranges from the Adam's apple to the pomegranate to the apple of discord. The latter arises when there is a dispute about the victor's apple, which, for example, ancient Paris must give to one of the three female graces, thus provoking at least two to contradict each other. As is well known, you can create apples of discord off the cuff!Before the potato became a potato, it was called "Erdapfel" (earth apple), which has been preserved in dialect as "adappel" (parallel: Krumbier = earth pear) and in French as "pomme de terre". Also in the new world the apple became proverbial: New York is considered as "Big apple" and also the electronic machine used for the writing of this text is one of the brand Apple.The apple of Adam and Eve is a symbol of guilt; however, in the hands of Mary, the Mother of God, or of the boy Jesus, it becomes a symbol of overcoming the original guilt, a sign of redemption. This interpretation – and the pomegranate as a model – were the inspiration for the imperial apple crowned by a cross, which belonged to the imperial regalia and thus came into the hands of the German emperor.This ambiguity of the apple, symbol of guilt and at the same time symbol of overcoming guilt, makes it ambiguous. He is for example also with one of the "apple saints", with Hermann Joseph von Steinfeld. He gives his apple to the Blessed Mother, who was and still is a sculpture in the Church of Mary in the Capitol in Cologne. On the surface, it is a simple gift; those who look deeper realize that through Mary's obedience, the Redeemer came into the world and erased the debt expressed by the apple that was handed to her. In a symbolic way, Mary accepts the debt, making the apple a sign of redemption. And this beginning of the end of the debt we celebrate every Christmas over and over again. An apple reflects creation, hereditary guilt and redemption.

Christina Cherry