The Living Holiday Symbol

Wouldn't it be nice to celebrate the holiday season with something truly authentic to Christmas, Hanukkah, and all that occurred during those holy times -- something exactly the same now as it was thousands of years ago.  Well, hang on to your stockings, folks, it might be right outside of your window.

Noah thanked God for them, Christ defended them, and many of us don't even realize who they are, even though we probably see them everyday.  They are the symbols of love and peace.  They are the doves.  But, which variety of dove is the original embodiment of these ideals?  The answer may surprise you, since many people don't even recognize them as doves.  A quick look in the dictionary will provide a clue. 

  dove (duv) n. 1. Any of various widely distributed birds of the family Columbidae, which includes the pigeons*, having a small head and a characteristic cooing call.  2. A gentle, innocent person.  3. A person who advocates peace, conciliation, or negotiation in preference to confrontation or armed conflict. 

         *pi·geon (pij'en) [from Middle English < Middle French < Late Latin, meaning chirping young dove.]

Donna Johnson, on the staff of National Wildlife, describes them best in her article entitled "Peace".  Here are some excerpts.
"The image of the dove as a symbol of peace is based on pigeons.   Over centuries, humanity has developed a relationship with these birds, exalting them in symbolism and depending on them for messenger service, food and scientific study.

By far the most abundant species worldwide is Columbia livia, most familiar in the form of street pigeons.  A Mediterranean native, it was first brought to North America by European settlers in the 1700's. 

The dove symbol developed around 4500 B.C. [It] combined attributes of all the region's pigeons. 

[Pigeons] frequently keep the same mate year after year, hence the connection with love.  The birds clustered in early temples, historians speculate, just as pigeons roost on public buildings today. Thus the birds came to be linked with fertility goddesses like Astarte, Venus and Aphrodite.


By biblical times, the dove had become such a familiar image that it worked its way into Christianity.  According to legend, says folklorist Boria Sax of Pace University, 'Noah sent out a raven that didn't come back and later a pigeon that returned with the olive branch, a sign of peace.'"

So, in keeping with the spirit of this holiday season, let's appreciate and enjoy those fine feathered links to our cultural past.  Let us bestow peace and goodwill -- not only unto our fellow man -- but also unto the very symbols of it all.                                                                                                                           © D.L. Roth ,  December 14, 1995

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