The word Advent is from the Latin adventus for "coming" and is associated with the four weeks of preparation for Christmas. Advent blends together a penitential spirit, very similar to Lent, a liturgical theme of preparation for the Second and Final Coming of the Lord, called the Parousia, and a joyful theme of getting ready for the Bethlehem event. Since the 900s Advent has been considered the beginning of the Church year. This does not mean that Advent is the most important time of the year. Easter has always had this honor. The traditional color of Advent is purple or violet which symbolizes the penitential spirit. Religious traditions associated with Advent express all these themes. Catholic Network EWTN.com
The rose candle is lit the third Sunday of Advent, for this color anticipates and symbolizes the Christmas joy announced in the first word of the Entrance Antiphon: "Rejoice" (Latin, Gaudete). For this reason the Third Sunday is also called Gaudete Sunday (Catholic), and rose color vestments are permitted.
The Advent Wreath represents the long time when people lived in spiritual darkness, waiting for the coming of the Messiah, the Light of the world. Each year in Advent people wait once again in darkness for the coming of the Lord, His historical coming in the mystery of Bethlehem, His final coming at the end of time, and His special coming in every moment of grace. During Advent, family and friends can gather around the Advent Wreath lighting the appropriate candle(s), read from the daily Advent meditation and sing songs. Catholic Network EWTN.com
See Also Wreath
On Christmas Eve, the spiders heard her prayers and hung their webs all over the tree. As the sun came up, its rays glittered and sparkled on the dew that was sprinkled on the webs and turned them to silver and gold. Brama.com
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It might have been because the Jewish Festival of light, called Hanukkah, is celebrated during winter and the early Christians might of taken the custom of burning candles from the Jews and put it to Christmas.
One of the earliest records of candles being used at Christmas is from the middle ages where a large candle was used to represent the star of Bethlehem and also that Jesus is sometimes called ‘the Light of the World’ by Christians. This might have started the custom of the Advent Crown. WhyChristmas.com
the foundation of churches and the firmness of the promises made by God. The candies are made in a "J" shape to represent the name of Jesus and the shape of the staff of the "Good Shepherd". And the three red stripes on the candy represents the Trinity and the blood shed by Christ to let us have the promise of the eternal life. ChristmasCarnivals.com
The practice of sending Christmas greeting cards to friends was initiated by Sir Henry Cole in England. The year was 1843 and the first card was designed by J.C.Horsley. It was commercial - 1000 copies were sold in London. An English artist, William Egley, produced a popular card in 1849. From the beginning the themes have been as varied as the Christmas customs worldwide. Santaland.com
The first post that ordinary people could use was started in 1840 when the first ‘Penny Post’ public postal deliveries began. Before that, only very rich people could afford to sent anything in the post. The new Post Office was able to offer a Penny stamp because new railways were being built. These could carry much more post than the horse and carriage that had been used before. Also, railway trains could go a lot faster. Cards became even more popular in the UK when they could be posted in an unsealed envelope for one halfpenny - half the price of an ordinary letter.
As printing methods improved, Christmas cards became much more popular and were produced in large numbers from about 1860. An engraved card by the artist William Egley, who illustrated some of Charles Dickens’s books, is on display in the British Museum. By the early 1900s, the custom had spread over Europe and had become especially popular in Germany. WhyChristmas.com
The Catholic Church valued music greatly and it is no wonder that the early Christmas songs date from 4th century (the earliest known is Jesus refulsit omnium by St.Hilary of Poitiers). The Mediaeval Christmas music followed the Gregorian tradition. In Renaissance Italy there emerged a lighter and more joyous kind of Christmas songs, more like the true carols (from the French word caroler, meaning to dance in a ring). These songs continued to be religious and in Latin, though. In Protestant countries the tradition, as everything Christmas-related, intensified.
Luther wrote and composed his song "From Heaven above I come to You". Music by Handel and Mendelssohn was adapted and used as Christmas carols. The old Finnish/Swedish collection Piae Cantiones was translated and published in English in mid - 19th century. The most famous of all, Silent Night (Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht) was written by the Austrian parish priest Joseph Mohr and composed by Franz Gruber, church organist, in 1818. In 19th century and later many popular songs were written by composers (e.g. Adam, Sibelius). The themes of songs surpassed religion and the totality of Christmas paraphernalia found its way to carol music. Santaland.com
Here's a list of traditional Christmas Carols (and some more popular modern ones)
- Away In A Manger
- Carol Of The Bells
- Deck The Halls
- God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
- Jingle Bells
- Joy To The World
- Hark, The Herald Angels Sing
- Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
- I'll Be Home For Christmas
- It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
- Little Drummer Boy
- O Come All Ye Faithful
- O Holy Night
- O, Little Town of Bethlehem
- O Tannenbaum
- Rudolf the Red-Nose Reindeer
- Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
- Silent Night
- Silver Bells
- The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)
- The First Noel
- The Twelve Days of Christmas
- We Wish You A Merry Christmas
- What Child Is This?
- White Christmas
- Winter Wonderland
Midnight mass and day services are held in the Churches during the eve and the day of Christmas. The message and sermons of love and redemption are given out. Large numbers of people gather to pray and thank god for his sacrifices that are believed to have saved mankind. ChristmasCarnivals.com
Christmas Day begins in a very special way with the Midnight Mass. Having this first of the Christmas Masses in the middle of the night is an old custom in the Church and is full of significance. In the first place it corresponds with the traditional belief that Christ was born at midnight. Secondly, from the material darkness around us, we are reminded of the spiritual darkness in the world which only Christ the Light can dispel.
The Midnight Mass is surrounded by family traditions which vary according to national heritage or personal preference. There is, for instance, one delightful way of waking the younger children for Mass. Some member of the family dressed as an angel and carrying a lighted candle, goes to each bed and sings a carol. After Mass many people share a special breakfast with their family.
The French are especially fond of this night meal or reveillon, and serve their own traditional dishes. Other families place the Christ-Child in the crib on their return, and often the head of the family reads the Gospel aloud at the crib or at the breakfast table. This time after Mass also lends itself to the singing of carols and the quiet re-explanation of the Christmas story which children never tire of hearing. The second Mass of Christmas Day is the Mass at dawn, traditionally called the Shepherds' Mass. Just as the shepherds went eagerly to the crib to adore the Lord and to receive His great gift of light, so we also go to the altar where the same Lord comes just as truly to us. The theme of light is prominent in this Mass. Outside, the natural light is increasing.
In Bethlehem the Light is manifested to a few more men. Over and over in the Mass texts light is mentioned: The Introit begins, "A Light shall shine upon us this day; for the Lord is born to us." These words can be read again at home, perhaps at the lighting of the Christ-Candle. (See The Christ-Candle for explanation of the candle.) Because the feast of Christmas is so great, the Church does not stop rejoicing after one or even two special Masses. She continues her worship with a third, the Mass of the Day. In this Mass, our attention is directed towards the divinity of the Child born in Bethlehem.
We rejoice in His governing power and wisdom in the Introit. The Epistle refers us back to the Midnight Mass with the passage: "Thou art My Son, today have I begotten Thee." The progressive manifestation of Christ continues. From swaddling clothes and a lowly stable we move to might and majesty, throne and sceptre. From the adoration of Mary and Joseph and a few shepherds, we go to the adoration of all the earth. The great feast of Christ's manifestation, the Epiphany, is foreshadowed in the Gradual and Communion when we say, "All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God."
It is natural that Christian families, in the spirit of the Masses, feel a desire to continue expressing their joy throughout the whole of Christmas Day. This expression takes varied forms. InternetPadre.com
According to a legend, the Christmas tree is associated with the birth of Jesus Christ. It is believed that on the night of the birth of Christ, all kinds of living creatures came to Bethlehem with gifts. The olive tree came along with its fruit and the palm with its date but the fir had nothing to gift the newborn king. So an angel, taking pity on the fir, commanded a cluster of stars to shine on its beautiful boughs. Baby Jesus smiled on seeing the lighted tree, and blessed it. Consequently, the fir tree is always lighted with many decorations on it, to please little children during Christmas. How Stuff Works
Another belief is that the triangular shape of the tree symbolizes the Trinity and points upwards towards the God. While the light, gift and decorations on the Christmas tree mean heaven; love and charity respectively. ChristmasCarnivals.com
Another Opinion - Christian Origins:
In spite of the many attempts on the part of some historians to trace the origin of the Christmas tree to mythology, the custom and the symbolism are completely Christian. The Christmas tree resulted from a combination of the medieval Paradise tree and the Christmas candle.
One of the most popular of the medieval German mystery plays was the Paradise play, representing the creation of man, the sin of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from Paradise. This play became a favorite for Advent because it usually ended with the consoling promise of a Savior. As a matter of fact, the closing scenes led directly to the story of Bethlehem. In this play, the Garden of Eden was represented by a large tree symbolizing the "Tree of Discernment of Good and Evil."
The Paradise tree was usually surrounded by lighted candles and the play enacted within the circle of lights. The Paradise tree gradually found its way into the homes of the people. The custom arose of setting it up once a year in honor of Adam and Eve on their feast, December 24. This particular feast, never celebrated in the Latin Church, was borrowed from the Eastern Rite. At this time the tree was bedecked with the symbolic apple, but further than that it bore no other resemblance to our present Christmas tree. But, at the same time, Christ was not forgotten. The Christmas candle in honor of Christ, the light of the world, was placed on top of a wooden pyramid, adorned with tinsel and colored glass balls.
It was during the fifteenth century that more ornamentation began to appear on the tree. Since the Paradise tree already bore the fruit of Adam and Eve's sin, it was now thought proper to add a symbol of the "saving fruit" of the Blessed Sacrament. Accordingly, small white wafers were placed on its branches. Later, when imaginations began working overtime, shapes of men, birds, roosters, lions and other animals were also hung on the tree. But it was insisted that these latter had to be cut from brown dough; the wafers were made from white dough.
People living in the sixteenth century finally began to notice the similarity between the tree and the Christmas pyramid. The tree was, so to say, a living pyramid and they might well combine the two ... the tree and the lights. From then on, it became the Christmas tree. As time went on, the cookie forms disappeared and ornaments, made in symbolic shapes, took their place. By now, these have been replaced by meaningless decorated balls. However, even these need not lose their symbolism. The colored balls become more meaningful and more beautiful if religious pictures, symbolizing Christmas, are pasted or painted upon them. Your religious Christmas cards can supply you with ample pictures for this. The children will delight in attaching the pictures to the ornaments, or even making symbolic paper ornaments to hang on the tree.
On Christmas, after the tree has been decorated. Daddy may wish to read the special blessing for the tree. This can be found in the Christmas booklets that are obtainable at religious book stores. You will find that explaining the true history of the tree, giving it proper decorations and reading the blessing will give it far, more Christmas meaning for every member of the family. InternetPadre.com
Even before decorated Christmas trees became the custom, the crèche already had pride of place in people's homes. The crèches depicted the Infant Jesus or scenes from the lives of Christ and the saints. These figures were made of wax, bread dough or spun glass and were set in an imaginary landscape of flowers, waterfalls and animals evocative of paradise. The appeal of crèches can be seen in France as early as the XVIIth century. In aristocratic and middle class homes, the forerunners of the domestic crèche began to appear in the form of decorated glass-fronted boxes called grottoes or rockeries. The Neapolitan crèches were particularly successful. When Provencal santons appeared in the XVIIIth century, the family crèche became even more widespread and some of them contained up to 40 different characters. In Quebec, the Christmas crèche was already part of religious traditions from the beginning of New France. Nonetheless, it is only after 1875 that crèches began to appear in houses and become part of family routines. The custom of setting up a under the Christmas tree became widespread during the 1930s. Many families built their own small stables to shelter commercially-bought figures. Later still, whole villages made up of little houses spread out around the crèche appeared at the foot of the tree. VirtualMuseum.ca See Also Nativity.
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The traditional date for the appearance of Santa Claus, obviously from the birthdate of Jesus (the word Christmas is from old English, meaning Christ's mass). This date is near the shortest day of the year, from old times an important agricultural and solar feasting period in Europe. The actual birthday of Jesus is not known and thus the early Church Fathers in the 4th century fixed the day as was most convenient. The best fit seemed to be around the old Roman Saturnalia festival (17 - 21 December), a traditional pagan festivity with tumultuous and unruly celebrations. Moreover, in 273 Emperor Aurelianus had invented a new pagan religion, the cult of Sol Invictus (invincible sun, the same as the Iranian god Mithra), the birthday of this god being 25th December (natalis sol invicti). The Christian priests obviously saw this choice as doubly meritorious: using the old customary and popular feasting date but changing the rough pagan ways into a more civilized commemoration.
The first mention of the birthday of Jesus is from the year 354. Gradually all Christian churches, except Armenians (celebrating 6th January which date is for others the baptismal day of Jesus and the day of the three Magi), accepted the day. In American/English tradition the Christmas Day itself is the day for Santa, in German/Scandinavian tradition the Christmas Eve is reserved for presents. Santaland.com
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Over the course of the aging winter, the pair had ascribed anthropomorphic qualities to any number of holiday trappings before they finally came across the concept of the irrepressible snowman. They tin-pan alleyed a catchy tune from it, and before summer was warm they found themselves at the doorstep of Mr. Autry, promising him they had 'the next big thing' for the Christmas to come. Autry was an easy sale; he was hoping for a chance to follow up on last year's triumph, and snatched it up greedily.
Somehow, it worked. It was another hit - not a Rudolph by a long shot, but it did manage to burrow down into the public consciousness enough that Frosty joined the pantheon of Christmas icons. Nelson and Rollins sold Autry another song at the same time - just in case. And that's how the Easter ballad "Here comes Peter Cottontail" was born. Phillyburbs.com
One of the largest makers of Fruitcake is Collin Street Bakery located in Corsicana, Texas.
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There are many roots of this custom. There is St.Nicholas the anonymous benefactor, there is the tradition of Magi giving precious gifts to Jesus, there is the Roman custom of giving gifts of good luck to children during Saturnalia. The day of gift giving varies greatly in different Christian cultures and times:
6th December - in memory of St. Nicholas
24th December - Christmas Eve
25th December - Birthday of Jesus
1st of January - the New year
6th of January - The Epiphany, day of the Three Wise men, the Magi
The giver of the presents are many: Jesus himself, Old Father Christmas, Santa Claus, a Goat, Befana (the female Santa in Italy), the three Magi, Christmas gnomes, various Saints, the Kolyada (in Russia), the Joulupukki (in Finland). The oldest Finnish tradition did not necessarily involve a giver of the presents at all: an unseen person threw the gifts in from the door and quickly disappeared. Santaland.com
Almost every family has unconsciously or consciously established a traditional time for opening the gifts. The gift exchange is always a "family event"--no one ever thinks of opening his gifts alone. This is an occasion when all are united, and there is community rejoicing over every present.
Christmas Eve is an appropriate time for the exchange of gifts, after the Christ-Child has been placed in the manger, and the special prayers before the crib--and a round of Christmas carols- -are over. If the gifts are given out before the Midnight Mass, the children can concentrate more easily on the great mystery which is celebrated, when the Greatest Gift is given to all alike, even those who have received no material expression of Christmas love. And then, too, Christmas Day with its two additional Masses can be devoted more to the contemplation of the Christmas mystery and the demands of Christmas hospitality.
But other families like to wait until the return from Midnight Mass, when gifts are opened before the family retires for the rest of the night. Christmas morning remains the rule in still other homes as the time for the gift exchange. In some homes, parents suggest that the children immediately choose one of their favorite gifts to be given to the poor, as a special sacrifice of gratitude to the Christ-Child--but a sacrifice done with a radiant face and a joyous spirit. Christmas gifts of clothing also provide opportunity for parents to introduce or encourage the lovely family custom of first wearing the new clothes to Church--as a sign of our gratitude for God's goodness and overflowing generosity towards us. There has been great interest lately in the question of just who should bring the gifts at Christmas.
Many families feel that the over-emphasis on Santa Claus greatly detracts from the central mystery of the feast, and they either make known the fact that the parents themselves are the givers, or in many families, the children are told that the Christ-Child Himself has bestowed the presents. Others restore the stately bishop's mitre and crosier to Santa Claus, and good St. Nicholas is the one who brings the children's toys and gifts--perhaps after a preliminary visit to see how the children are behaving on the eve of his feastday, December 5. InternetPadre.com
The tale of gnomes goes back to pagan times, when there was widespread belief in house gnomes which supposedly guarded homes against any evil (evil was ubiquitous in Viking times). These gnomes were mostly benevolent but they could be nasty if they were not properly treated. They were clad in grey with red caps. The cult of gnomes withstood the onslaught of Christianity and was eventually linked with things Christian. The oral traditions were fixed in writing in 19th century when a succession of writers (Grimm Brothers, Thiele,Topelius, Rydberg) and artists (Hansen, Nyström) created the true Christmas gnomes.
Originally these apparitions were active throughout the year but nowadays they are firmly entrenched in the Christmas time, although in Finland the children are scared by "tontut" who watch behind the windows and keep tally of the good behaviour the year round. As with all Christmas customs, local or global, the origins are forgotten and everything is intertwined with the modern folklore, Disney (whose seven dwarves bear marked resemblance to Christmas gnomes) and all ... Santaland.com
The Norwegian "Nisse" is not like his American relative Santa Claus. The Norwegian "Nisse" differs from both Santa Claus and St. Nicholas. In modern Norway we have really two types of "nisser".
The name "Nisse" probably derives from St. Nicholas. But "nisser" - which are elves (or gnomes) are old figures which existed long before the birth of Christ. There are several types of "nisser" in Norway. The most known is the "Fjøsnisse" which is a "nisse" who takes care of the animals on the farms. The "Fjøsnisse" is very short and often bearded and lives in a barn or a stable. He wears clothes of wool and often has a red knitted hat. The "Fjøsnisse" often plays tricks on people. Sometimes he will scare people by blowing out the lights in the barn or he will scare the farm dog at night. You can hear the dogs bark! He can become very friendly with the people that live on the farm, but one should never forget to give him a large portion of porridge on Christmas Eve - or else he will play tricks for example move the animals around in the barn, braid the horses' mane and tail, and other tricks like that.........
Of course we also have a Christmas nisse (julenissen) which in most homes is more or less identical to Santa Claus. The "Julenisse" brings presents to all the nice children on Christmas Eve. He is not as shy as Santa though, since the "julenisse" delivers the presents himself. He does not come down the chimney in the middle of the night. Christmas in Norway
Similar to the frankincense, myrrh is a burial ointment and it has cleansing qualities. The gifts the magi brought to Jesus foretold about God’s plan. They symbolize faith, hope and love all in the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. ChristmasCarnivals.com
They followed the direction of the star- East - and eventually found the place where Mary, Joseph and Jesus were staying. To bring honour to the child, they brought rich gifts: gold, frankincense (a resin which burns with a beautiful smell), and myrrh (plant oil with a very strong sweet smell). These gifts tell us in pictures three key things about Jesus:
Gold: a gift fit for a King
Frankincense: burnt in worship of God
Myrrh: a sign of mortal human-ness - it was used to bury the dead
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For centuries, holly has been the subject of myths, legends, and customary observances. Holly is conventionally associated with masculinity and a symbol of good luck. It decorates the home at Christmas time, and is regarded as a symbol of delight and merriment that brings up thoughts of celebration and good cheer. The Romans used the plant to decorate their houses, temples, and deities for Saturnalia, the mid-winter feast. They exchanged holly boughs as symbols of kindness and friendship. This practice is believed to be the predecessor of holly's use in Christmas celebrations. Centuries later, in December, while other Romans continued their pagan worship, Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus. As Christians increased in number and their customs prevailed, Holly lost its pagan associations and became a symbol of Christmas.
The plant has come to stand for tranquility, joy and merriment. People often settle disputes under a holly tree. Holly is believed to frighten off witches and evil spirits and protect the home from thunder and lightning. In Western England it is believed that twigs of holly around a young girl's bed on Christmas Eve would keep away naughty little goblins. In Germany, a piece that has been used in church decorations is regarded as magic against lightning. The English also mention the "he holly and the she holly" as being the deciding factor in who will dominate the household in the following year, the "he holly" have thorny leaves while a "she holly" have smooth ones. . Other beliefs include, putting a sprig of holly on the bedpost would bring sweet dreams and also making a tonic from holly could be a cure for cold. ChristmasCarnivals.com
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"and Jesse was the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon ... Asa of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat of Joram ... Josiah was the father of Jeconiah ... Eliakim of Azor, Azor of Zadok ... Matthan of Jacob, Jacob of Joseph, the husband of Mary, who gave birth to Jesus called Messiah." (Matthew 1, v 6-16) (The New English Bible, Cambridge University Press, NY, 2nd Ed., 1970). So the human family is a tree and one branch of that tree leads from Jesse, through King David, to Jesus. The Jesse Tree is an ancient Catholic symbol of the descent of Jesus. Traditionally, in Catholic schools, at various times of the year, the children would hang the names of all the ancestors of Jesus on the tree. Since Jesse is one of the first, it is called The Jesse Tree. >A HREF="http://www.stjoan.com/feature3/jessetree.htm">St Joan Catholic Church
Young James was a rogue; he abandoned his family several times, took up arms for the Confederacy (his father was a Boston Abolitionist minister), and, after his first wife died, he abandoned his children to take another wife, who may or may have already been pregnant with Pierpont's child. He was living the fast times in the horse and buggy days, but if you really look hard, you'll see that rock-and-roll was out there, even before it had a beat.
Take the last verse (seldom included) Now the ground is white || Go it while you’re young, || Take the girls to night || And sing this sleighing song; || Just get a bob tailed bay || Two forty as his speed. || Hitch him to an open sleigh || And crack, you’ll take the lead. Phillyburbs.com
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"We come walking with our staves, wreathed with laurel: We seek the King Jesus, Him that saves, To Bring Him laurel..." Christmas.com
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On Christmas Eve, children in the U.K. often leave out mince pies with brandy or some similar drink for Father Christmas, and a carrot for the reindeer. WhyChristmas.com
Sacred to ancient druids and a symbol of eternal life the same way as Christmas tree. The Romans valued it as a symbol of peace and this lead eventually its acceptance among Christmas props. Kissing under mistletoe was a Roman custom, too. Santaland.com
Mistletoe is an aerial parasite that has no roots of its own and lives off the tree that it attaches itself to. Without that tree it would die. Mistletoe was thought to be sacred by ancient Europeans. Druid priests employed it in their sacrifices to the gods while Celtic people felt it possessed miraculous healing powers. In fact, in the Celtic language mistletoe means "all-heal." It not only cured diseases, but could also render poisons harmless, make humans and animals prolific, keep one safe from witchcraft, protect the house from ghosts and even make them speak. With all of this, it was thought to bring good luck to anyone privileged to have it.
Norsemen offer us a beautiful symbolic myth about mistletoe. The story goes that Mistletoe was the sacred plant of Frigga, goddess of love and the mother of Balder, the god of the summer sun. Balder had a dream of death, which greatly alarmed his mother, for should he die, all life on earth would end. In an attempt to keep this from happening, Frigga went at once to air, fire, water, earth, and every animal and plant seeking a promise that no harm would come to her son. Balder now could not be hurt by anything on earth or under the earth. But Balder had one enemy, Loki, god of evil and he knew of one plant that Frigga had overlooked in her quest to keep her son safe. It grew neither on the earth nor under the earth, but on apple and oak trees. It was lowly mistletoe. So Loki made an arrow tip of the mistletoe, gave to the blind god of winter, Hoder, who shot it, striking Balder dead. The sky paled and all things in earth and heaven wept for the sun god. For three days each element tried to bring Balder back to life. Frigga, the goddess and his mother finally restored him. It is said the tears she shed for her son turned into the pearly white berries on the mistletoe plant and in her joy Frigga kissed everyone who passed beneath the tree on which it grew. The story ends with a decree that who should ever stand under the humble mistletoe, no harm should befall them, only a kiss, a token of love.
What could be more natural than to translate the spirit of this old myth into a Christian way of thinking and accept the mistletoe as the emblem of that Love which conquers Death? Its medicinal properties, whether real or imaginary, make it a just emblematic of that Tree of Life, the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations thus paralleling it to the Virgin Birth of Christ.
Later, the eighteenth-century English credited mistletoe not with miraculous healing powers, but with a certain magical appeal called a kissing ball. At Christmas time a young lady standing under a ball of mistletoe, brightly trimmed with evergreens, ribbons, and ornaments, cannot refuse to be kissed. Such a kiss could mean deep romance or lasting friendship and goodwill. If the girl remained unkissed, she cannot expect not to marry the following year. Whether we believe it or not, it always makes for fun and frolic at Christmas celebrations. Christmas.com
In the past live animals, including an ox and donkey and other farm animals (but not pigs) were used in the plays. Sometimes they still are, but it is now more common for children to dress up as the animals in costumes or to have animal props.
The first Nativity Play was not performed by Children in the UK, but in a cave by Monks in Italy! St. Francis of Assisi and his followers acted in the first play in 1223 to remind the local population that Jesus was born for them, as he was born into a poor family like theirs and not a rich family.
St. Francis told the part of each character in the story himself using wooden figures in the play. After a couple of years, the play had become so popular that real people played the parts of the characters in the story. Songs were sung by the people taking part and they became what we call carols today!
Now cribs are used in Churches all over the world and even in some homes (we have a wooden one in my house!) to remind people of the story. Sometimes religious pictures and statues are called icons. Some catholic people have icon of Mary and the baby Jesus in their homes. WhyChristmas.com
Christmas was originally in pagan times the festival of End of Darkness, the shortest day of the year, after which comes Spring and and then Summer . We say in Finland "Talven selkä taittuu" meaning that the back of Winter is broken. The more northern the country the more pronounced is the contrast between winter and summer solstices. The length of December day in Helsinki is about 5 hours, the longest June day is 19 hours. The temperature in Winter might be -30 degrees Celsius, the temperature in Summer +30. These extremes set the span of the year in the North.
Thus,in minds of Northern men Christmas is associated with Winter ways: snow, cold, darkness illuminated by candles, sleighs drawn by horses, fur coats. Christmas things are in contrast with summer things. If this applies to the folk of the North the more it will interest Southern peoples who do not have such pronounced climatic changes but who find the traditions of Northern Christmas delightfully odd and alluring. Furthermore, to preserve a myth one generally likes to place it as far as possible from the everyday experience: in North Pole, Lapland. I think that in Northern Europe in intensity of Christmas feeling is greatest because of the contrasts of Midwinter. The custom tends to accelerate towards greatest intensity. In this case, the Northern Christmas, with its peculiar romance and idyll.
Literally, Mount Ear, in county Savukoski, Lapland. The height is about half a kilometer, so it is a big hill, really. It has three summits and the Finnish-Russian border divides them. The traditional dwelling place of the Finnish Father Christmas, "Joulupukki". This region belongs to the reindeer country proper, thus the place is lots better for Santa to live than the North Pole (with no reindeers at all - its only stiff water there!).
Korvatunturi is situated within the border region which is strictly off-limits for ordinary tourists - maybe this has added to the myth and mystery of the place. Actually this tradition is very young one. In 1927 the Finnish radio personality Uncle Marcus invented the whole thing telling his young listeners that Father Christmas lived in (on?) Korvatunturi and used the ears of the mountain to listen to the wishes of children. This stuck and the story goes that after the war, when Finland was compelled to make concessions to Russia, they demanded the whole mountain, but relented when they were told about the significance of Korvatunturi for Finnish kids.Santaland.com
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The crystal balls symbolizes the fruit of redemption, the electric light or the candles are ancient symbols that stand for the triumph of spring over the darkness of winter. The light also symbolizes the light that Jesus Christ cast upon the lives of the people. The Holy, when it flies down to earth, is believed to take the shape of a dove. The dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit, while the bell symbolizes the joys of life. ChristmasCarnivals.com
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Christmas pudding originated as a 14th century porridge called ‘frumenty’ that was made of beef and mutton with raisins, currants, prunes, wines and spices. This would often be more like soup and was eaten as a fasting meal in preparation for the Christmas festivities.
By 1595, frumenty was slowly changing into a plum pudding, having been thickened with eggs, breadcrumbs, dried fruit and given more flavour with the addition of beer and spirits. It became the customary Christmas dessert around 1650, but in 1664 the Puritans banned it as a bad custom.
In 1714, King George I re-established it as part of the Christmas meal, having tasted and enjoyed Plum Pudding. By Victorian times, Christmas Puddings had changed into something similar to the ones that are eaten today.
Over the years, many superstitions have surrounded Christmas Puddings. One superstition says that the pudding should be made with 13 ingredients to represent Jesus and His Disciples and that every member of the family should take turns to stir the pudding with a wooden spoon from east to west, in honour of the Wise Men. WhyChristmas.com
One Christmas Eve, Maria and Pablo set out for church to attend the service. Not knowing what else to do, Pepita knelt by the roadside and gathered a handful of common weeds, fashioning them into a small bouquet and deciding to take them as their gift to the Baby Jesus in the manger scene. Looking at the scraggly bunch of weeds, she felt more saddened and embarrassed than ever by the humbleness of her offering. Of course other children teased them when they arrived with their gift, but they said nothing for they knew they had given what they could. Maria and Pablo began placing the green plants around the manger and miraculously, the green top leaves turned into bright red petals, and soon the manger was surrounded by beautiful star-like flowers, all who saw them were certain that they had witnessed a Christmas miracle right before their eyes. ChristmasCelebrations.com
Joel Roberts Poinsett, then the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, imported the plant from Mexico. What appear to be petals are actually coloured leaflike bracts that surround a central cluster of tiny yellow flowers. A milky latex in the stems and leaves can be irritating to persons or animals sensitive to it, but the claim that poinsettias are deadly poisonous is greatly exaggerated. How Stuff Works
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The biological reindeer is used as meat and skin producing animal (the horn or poronsarvi is desired by the Japanese for aphrodisiac). It used to be draft animal (and can be - for tourists - such a one even today). The reindeers are not wholly domesticated. The most part of the year reindeers are free to roam and search for food . They are collected for counting and slaughter in the so-called poroerotus (division of reindeers). This is a truly exciting happening with thousands of animals, their owners selling and buying and dragging the obstinate beasts. One can see true Northern reindeerboys (if there exists such a term) there with lassoes (suopunki). Santaland.com See Also Santa and his Reindeer
Also in northern and central Europe it is a tradition to break off a branch of a cherry tree at the beginning of the Advent and keep it in water in a warm room; the flowers should burst into bloom at Christmas time. ChristmasCarnivals.com
After the Reformation, Nicholas' cult disappeared in all the Protestant countries of Europe except Holland, where his legend persisted as Sinterklaas. Dutch colonists took this tradition with them to New Amsterdam (now New York) in the 17th century. The country's English-speaking majority adopted Sinterklaas under the name of Santa Claus.
In Holland, Saint Nicholas arrives in the country at the end of November from Spain. He rides a white horse and is accompanied by his faithful Moorish servant, Zwarte Piet. Saint Nicholas Day itself is celebrated with a special "pakjesavond" (present night). For this event, family members give one another elaborately wrapped presents and funny anonymous poems. It is the perfect occasion to tell everybody the truth or simply to share love and affection. Sinterklaas - GlobalGuide.org
After the Reformation, Nicholas' cult disappeared in all the Protestant countries of Europe except Holland, where his legend persisted as Sinterklaas (a Dutch variant of the name Saint Nicholas). Dutch colonists took this tradition with them to New Amsterdam (now New York City) in the American colonies in the 17th century. Sinterklaas was adopted by the country's English-speaking majority under the name Santa Claus, and his legend of a kindly old man was united with old Nordic folktales of a magician who punished naughty children and rewarded good children with presents. How Stuff Works
From Bishop to Kindly old gift giver at Christmas, the tradition of Santa Claus was brought to America by the Dutch who settle in New Amsterdam, now known as New York. Detail from First Celebration of the Festival of St. Nicholas by The New-York Historical Society, Broadside by Alexander Anderson, December 6, 1810, commissioned by John Pintard, SY 1864-21, negative number 28883. After the American Revolution, New Yorkers remembered with pride the colony's nearly-forgotten Dutch roots. John Pintard, influential patriot and antiquarian, who founded the New York Historical Society in 1804, promoted St. Nicholas as patron saint of both society and city. In January 1809, Washington Irving joined the society and on St. Nicholas Day that year he published the satirical Knickerbocker's History of New York, which made numerous references to a jolly St. Nicholas character. This was not a saintly bishop, rather an elfin Dutch burgher with a clay pipe.
The jolly elf image received a big boost in 1823, from a poem destined to become immensely popular, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," now better known as "The Night Before Christmas."
His looks are changing, but it is still Saint Nicholas Period Postcard
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes ... how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf. . . .
Other artists and writers continued the change to an elf-like St. Nicholas, "Sancte Claus," or "Santa Claus," unlike the stately European bishop. In 1863, political cartoonist Thomas Nast began a series of annual drawings in Harper's Weekly which were based on the descriptions found in the poem and Washington Irving's work. These drawings established a rotund Santa with flowing beard, fur garments, and an omnipresent clay pipe. As Nast drew Santas until 1886, his work had considerable influence in forming the American Santa Claus. Along with changes in appearance, the saint's name changed to Santa Claus as a natural phonetic alteration from the German Sankt Niklaus and Dutch Sinterklaas. St Nicholas Center.org
Then, between 1863 and 1886, Harper's Weekly (a popular magazine of the time) ran a series of engravings by Thomas Nast. From these images come the concepts of Santa's workshop, Santa reading letters, Santa checking his list and so on. Coca-Cola also played a role in the Santa image by running a set of paintings by Haddon Sundblom in its ads between 1931 to 1964.
The red and white suit came, actually, from the original Saint Nicholas. Those colors were the colors of the traditional bishop's robes. How Stuff Works See Also Reindeer
Why is that. Was Jesus born in a snow storm? Actually the popularity of having snow for Christmas has it origins in the many postcards (including Currier and Ives) at the end of the 19th century, and the popularity of the song, "White Christmas" by Irving Berlin, and sung by Bing Crosby in 1942. How Stuff Works See Also White Christmas
Snow, Ice and Christmas often go together, although why it should is a bit strange! There is no snow or ice in the Christmas story told in the Bible. However, snow does fall in Israel. Bethlehem and Jerusalem are on a range of hills that go north to south between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan valley. The top of these hills are about 1600 ft (500 m) tall. The hills often have very cold weather from November to April and snow can often fall. So, although the Bible story may not have snow in it, Jesus may well have seen some snow in his life!
The reason that we think of Snow and Ice at Christmas is portably down to the Victorians! Although Christmas was taken over from the Pagan winter solstice festivals in Europe, It was the Victorians who gave us our ‘traditional’ Christmas in Europe and the U.S.A. At the start of the Victorian era, (1837) Britain was in a mini ice age that was from about 1550 to 1850. During this time, in London, a winter fair was held on the frozen River Thames!
One of the main reasons that the Victorians put Snow and Christmas together was the book ‘A Christmas Carol’ written in 1843 by Charles Dickens.
It tells the story of a mean old business man called Ebeneezer Scrooge who hates Christmas During the night of Christmas Eve, he is visited by three ghosts, one of Christmas Past, one of Christmas Present and one of Christmas yet to come. They show him how mean he really is. He realises that making friends is more important than making money. When he wakes up on Christmas Day, he is a changed man and give lots of money and presents away. (If you don’t know the story, I recommend that you read the book or see a film of the story! A very famous film of it was made in 1951 [4 years after Britain had some of its heaviest snow of the 1900’s], but my favourite is the Muppet’s Christmas Carol!!!!)
When Charles Dickens was a child, Britain had very heavy snow falls around Christmas, so when he wrote ‘A Christmas Carol’ he put lots of snow and ice in it! He also put snow at Christmas in some of his other books like ‘The Pickwick Papers’. Charles Dickens’ books were very popular (and still are!) so when the Victorians read the books, they thought of snow and Christmas together!
One of the other reasons that Snow and Ice became popular in Victorians time is because Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, came from Germany where it was colder and he was used to lots of snow and ice being around at Christmas He brought the idea of have Christmas Trees to the U.K. as well as lots of other Christmas traditions. Christmas Cards also started in Victorian times with pictures of snow scenes becoming very popular. WhyChristmas.com
One wonders whether the star that shined that fateful night is any different from those of today. Astronomers continue to be at loss to explain the star that shone on the night of the birth of Jesus. It could not have been a meteor, for it lasted for only a few seconds, nor was it a comet because astronomers fond out that there were no comets visible to humans around the time of Christ’s birth.
The magi from the east were also astrologers of their time. They had studied the Jewish rabbis and were well aware of the triangle shape that had already appeared before the birth of Moses. This was perhaps the reason why it was interpreted that a great man was to be born on the Jewish land. The star was indeed a strange star and people continue to believe that a miracle had occurred around the time of the birth of Christ.
The Christmas star continues to adorn the churches and houses as part of the traditional Christmas celebrations. The star stands for high hopes and ideals, a hope for a good fortune and to reach above oneself. ChristmasCarnivals.com
The astrological/astronomical phenomenon which triggered the travel of the Magi to give presents to child Jesus. Variously described as a supernova or a conjunction of planets it supposedly happened around the year 7 BC - the most probable true birth year of Christ. Star is often put to the top of the Christmas tree. Santaland.com
The stars that appear in the sky today are the same ones that were there two thousand years ago. Was there a nova at the time of Jesus' birth? The exact time of His birth is not known, but astronomers cannot place a new star appearance anywhere near the possible time. Could it have been a shooting star? Again, the astronomers say it was not likely. A meteor lasts only a few seconds or mintues at best. The wise men followed the star for weeks looking for Jesus. We can rule out comets as well. They can be seen by the naked eye for a week or months. But modern astronomers know which comets were close enough to earth hundreds and thousands of years ago and there was no comet visible to humans around the time of Christ's birth.
Some star gazers suggest that if we move the birth of Jesus to the springtime of 6 B.C., we can attribute the star to the time the planets Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn were close together in the heavens. They formed a triangle in the group of stars known as Pisces. The wise men, themselves, were astrologers and studied the stars and planets and knew, according to Jewish Rabbis, of the triangle and that it had appeared before the birth of Moses. Perhaps they interpreted it as a sign of a great event in the land of the Jewish people. This may have been the star of Bethlehem. Pisces became the special constellation of the Hebrew people. Still, many people prefer to believe that the strange star did appear, and that it was simply a miracle and throughout the world today, the Christian holiday has usually begun with the appearance of the first star of Christmas Eve. Christmas.com
Here are the twelve symbols and their meaning:
1 Partridge in a pear tree = The One true God revealed in the person of Jesus Christ
2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch" which contain the law condemning us of our sins.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments of the Catholic faith
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed
One legend about how Wassailing was created, says that a beautiful Saxon maiden named Rowena presented Prince Vortigen with a bowl of wine while toasting him with the words ‘waes hael’. Over the centuries, a great deal of ceremony developed around the custom of drinking wassail. The bowl was carried into a room with a great fanfare, a traditional carol about the drink was sung, and finally, the steaming hot beverage was served. WhyChristmas.com
The word Xmas is so common in advertising most likely because "Xmas" and "sale" have the same number of letters, and "Xmas" is significantly shorter than Christmas. How Stuff Works
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In Provence (in France), it is traditional that the whole family helps to cut the log down and that a little bit is burnt each night. If any of the log is left after 12th night, it is kept safe in the house until the next Christmas to protect against lightning! In some parts of Holland, this was also done, but the log had to be stored under a bed! In some Easter European countries, the log was cut down on Christmas Eve morning and lit that evening.
In Cornwall (in the U.K.), the log is called ‘The Mock’. The log is dried out and then the bark is taken off it before it comes into the house to be burnt. Also in the UK, barrel makers (or Coopers as barrel makers were traditionally called) gave their customers old logs that they could not use for making barrels for Yule logs. (My surname is Cooper, but I don’t make barrels! but my Great Granddad did own a walking stick factory!)
The custom of the Yule Log spread all over Europe and different kids of wood are used in different countries. In England, Oak is traditional; in Scotland, it is Birch; while in France, it is Cherry. Also, in France, the log is sprinkled with wine, before it is burnt, so that it smells nice when it is lit.
In Devon and Somerset in the UK, some people have a very large bunch of Ash twigs instead of the log. This comes from a local legend that Joseph, Mary and Jesus were very cold when the shepherds found them on Christmas Night. So the shepherds got some bunches of twigs to burn to keep them warm. WhyChristmas.com
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The Bible Story
Frosty the Snowman
Glastonbury Thorn, the
Peace on Earth
St Nicholas Day
St Nicholas Gift Giving
Santa and the Reindeer
Shopping and Sales
12 Days of Christmas
White House Tree, the
Here are some websites with even more information about Christmas and it's Traditions: