History of Christmas
Christmas History and Origin
Christmas is for joy, for giving and sharing, for laughter, for coming together with family and friends, for tinsel and brightly decorated packages… But mostly, Christmas is for love. Christmas, Christian festival celebrating the birth of Jesus. The English term Christmas (“mass on Christ’s day”) is of fairly recent origin. It was this love for which Jesus came to this world and sacrificed his life.
Thus Christmas is a celebration of love and mirth symbolized by the Nativity, the Santa, the caribou, the poinsettia and the evergreens. All that brings home the spirit of love and life. And this is the spirit that makes Christmas so popular throughout the world.
Though originated by the Roman Catholics who commemorate the December 25th as the day of birth of Christ Child, it has gradually come to be celebrated by the non-Catholics as well. As far as the United States goes, the celebration of X’mas is comparatively of recent origin. Much of the world was already well into Christmas celebrations by the time the United States began to wake up. In the first half of the 19th century, the Sunday schools in America held Christmas celebrations. And the celebration of Christmas in America owes its origin to these schools. Alabama was the first state to grant legal recognition to X-mas in 1836. The DC did it in 1870. By 1893 all the states and territories had made similar acknowledgments.
So be it the United States or in other parts of the world Christmas is celebrated as the commemoration of the birth of Christ Child — very likely the holiest event ever to take place anywhere on the Earth, and an entirely worthy occasion to celebrate. But don’t we often wonder if we’ve got these things about it right? And why is the difference of opinion (however immaterial) regarding the date of birth? Is it even on the right date?
We bring to you a story of the Birth of Christ Child along and offer you a short tour across the world to know the way Christmas is celebrated in different parts. But before doing this please don’t forget to brush up some historical trivia regarding Jesus’ birth.
The whole world goes into the celebration mood during the midwinters. Long back even before the arrival of Jesus, Europeans started celebrating the light in the gloomiest days of winter. During the winter solstice, many of the Europeans began to celebrate because the tough time of winter was behind them and they felt it was the period of prolonged hours of sunlight.
Norse celebrated Yule from December 21 in Scandinavia. To celebrate the magic of sunlight, fathers and sons used logs and set them on fire. People around enjoyed these 12 days until the logs were not burned out completely. It was their belief that each fire spark represented a new pig or calf that would be born in the coming year.
Mesopotamians used to celebrate 12 days long New Year festival before 4000 years. This festival was called Zagmuth. The Mesopotamians, believers of multiple deities, started the celebration to honor their chief deity, Marduk. They used to believe that Marduk fought against the monsters of chaos at the onset of each winter season. It was believed that this was the festival where from the 12 days long Christmas had originated.
Most of the European countries thought that the end of December was an appropriate and ideal time for celebrations. It was high time to celebrate because there were no cattle left for feeding as most of the cattle were already slaughtered. The celebration could continue with fresh meat and it was the only time of the winter when they had that opportunity. The fermented wine and beer during this time were the additional spice for the celebration.
During mid-winter German people honored the time-honored Pagan God Oden. People of Germany were afraid of the nocturnal sky flights. They used to think that the Almighty had created that to observe and monitor his people of this world. They had also thought that the Almighty had the power to decide who would live and who would perish. Many of them decided to stay inside due to his presence.
Places like Saturnalia, Rome where the winter was not that strong and unkind like countries located in the northern tip celebrated holidays in honor of the God of agriculture, Saturn. Beginning in the week leading up to the winter solstice was a special period when residents had bountiful food items and drinks to celebrate with. The month-long celebration had the charm to convert slaves to even masters. Peasants used to control the city. To celebrate the time with fun and frolic all the schools and business organizations had decided to close their shutters.
Juvenalia, the feast honoring the Children of Rome, celebrated during the winter solstice, was a prime carnival for Roman people as well. On December 25, the upper class of Rome used to celebrate the birthday of the infant God of the unconquerable sun, Mithra who was born of a rock. It was the most sanctified day of the entire year for few Romans. Easter, the main holiday, was celebrated in the early years of Christianity. However, Christmas or the birth of Jesus was not celebrated.
Romans started to exchange gifts and visit the homes of their friends and relatives during the festivity. It was believed that the ritual of exchanging greeting and gifts during Christmas had come from Rome.
There are a number of characters and icons associated with Christmas and the history of Christmas. Here we give a brief outline of all such Christmas icons:
Origin of Christmas
- Santa Claus
- Xmas Tree or the Christmas tree
- Holly and the Prickly
- Glastonbury Thorn
- The Poinsettia as the Christmas flower
- Rudolf, the red nose Reindeer
- The Christmas Star
- Christmas Ornaments, Traditions, history and procurement
- Christmas elves
- Some Light on the Date of Christmas, Jesus, and Christianity
- Birth Of Jesus Christ
- A tradition of gifts and gifts giving
- The Fly Agaric Mushroom
1. History of Santa Claus
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Most religious historians and experts in folklore believe that there is no valid evidence to indicate that St. Nicholas ever existed as a human. In fact, there are quite a few indicators that his life story was simply recycled from those of Pagan gods. Many other ancient Pagan gods and goddesses were similarly Christianized in the early centuries of the Church. His legends seem to have been mainly created out of myths attributed to the Greek God Poseidon, the Roman God Neptune, and the Teutonic God Hold Nickar. The Christian church created a fictional life history for St. Nicholas. He was given the name Hagios Nikolaos (a.k.a. St. Nicholas of Myra).
Many legends and miracles are attributed to Saint Nicholas. When he was an infant, his mother only nursed him on Wednesdays and Fridays; he fasted the remaining days. During his lifetime, he adored children and often threw gifts anonymously into the windows of their homes. A sailor who fell overboard was reputedly saved by Nicholas when the saint walked on water, retrieved the sailor and carried him back to the ship. After an innkeeper had robbed & dismembered some students, Nicholas reputedly re-assembled them and restored them to life. Nicholas took pity on a poverty-stricken family with 3 daughters who faced the threat of being forced into prostitution because they had no wedding dowries. For two daughters he crept-up to their house at night and threw bags of gold through a bedroom window. For the last daughter, he threw a bag of gold down the chimney — which landed in a stocking she had set by the fireplace for drying. The traditional association of chimneys & stockings with Santa Claus comes from this story. Nicholas was also noted for his generosity with children — he would reward them with treats if they had studied their catechism & behaved well. Nicholas was therefore patron saint of schoolchildren & sailors.
The transformation of Saint Nicholas to Santa Claus happened largely in America — with inspiration from the Dutch. In the early days of Dutch New York, “Sinterklass” became known among the English-speaking as “Santa Claus” (or “Saint Nick”). In 1809 Washington Irving, a member of the New-York Historical Society (which promoted a Dutch Saint Nicholas as its patron saint), created a tale of a chubby, pipe-smoking little Saint Nicholas who rode a magic horse through the air visiting all houses in New York. The elfish figure was small enough to slide down chimneys with gifts for the good children and switches for the bad ones.
Santa Claus is the sum total of several trends, customs and beliefs that only got unified about a century and a half ago. His story is told through an ex-animation of the 3 names given to him in America: St. Nicholas, Kriss Kringle and Santa Clause.
Much of the present form of the Santa story is undoubtedly due to the works of Clement Clark Moore and the cartoons of Thomas Nast. In 1822, Dr. Moore from New York wrote a Christmas poem, “A visit from St. Nicholas” to read out to his children on X’mas Eve. The following year one Ms Harriet Butler read the poem and requested a copy from him. Later she sent it without Dr. Moore’s consent for publishing to Troy, New York Sentinel. Consequently it was published and became popular. In 1938 Dr. Moore revealed that St. Nicholas was his creation. And since then it has appeared countless times.
The 19th century American cartoonist Nast who had lived on the same West 23rd Street as Dr. Moore, did a series of Christmas drawings for Harper’s Weekly. It was where the today’s much familiar fat and rosy cheeked Santa with large beard and ringing bell made his debut after being modified from fat, little elf-like creature depicted in Dr. Moore’s poem.
And perhaps what made Santa more realistic is the classic reply of the editor of New York Sun in response to the 8-year old Virginia O’ Hanlon’s query whether there really was a Santa Claus. The ed replied “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus’, and made Santa living for ever to the kids.
2. Christmas tree decoration
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The concept of Christmas tree was first introduced by Germany long back in 16th century. It was the time when Christians brought adorned Christian tree to their homes. Wooden Christmas tree and evergreens bedecked the new looking homes. Candles are also used to give the homes a better and different look. Eventually, people of the other places of Europe also had started to follow the traditions and cultures related to the Christmas tree. Christmas tree looked even more fashionable and attractive when the husband of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, had bejeweled the first English tree at Windsor candle with candles, sweets, fruits and gingerbread in 1841. The tradition was followed by many English families later on. All kinds of extravagant items were used to decorate the tree and homes. According to Charles Dickens the Christmas trees were well covered and adorned with the fine looking dolls, miniature furniture, costume jewelry, little musical instruments, toy guns, swords, candy and fruits in 1850.
Most of the Americans had seen the peculiarities and oddness more than anything else in the Christmas tree in 19th century. It was on display in 1830s for the first time by the German settlers of Pennsylvania. The purpose was nice though. It was on display to raise money for the local church. Once the tree was set up outside of a church, people of Local Township didn’t take it positively. An outburst of anger was noticed; they thought it as a return of paganism. People of the parish asked the minister to take necessary steps and take it down.
Even though the popularity of Christmas tree was notable in Germany but by the 1890s Christmas ornaments started to arrive in the US market as well. However, the convention for both Europe and US was quite different. Europeans liked to use small Christmas trees of 4 feet height where as Americans preferred gigantic Christmas trees, length of which varied enormously.
In the early 20th century Americans were inclined towards the homemade ornaments. Homemade decorations were mainly used to bedeck the Christmas trees but the German- Americans had continued their old and impressive tradition of adorning the Christmas trees with apples, nuts and marzipan cookies. Popcorns were the new items of decorations along with berries and nuts.
The Christmas lights had helped the Christmas tree to beam when it is dark with the aid of the Electricity. Christmas trees were on display across the country. The beautifully decorated edifices mark the onset of the Christmas holidays.
In the early days, horns and bells were used to scare the evil spirits. Before that angels and fairies were used as signs of bringing good luck.
Angels, peacocks, numerous birds and many stars were usually used during Christmas to decorate Christmas tree in Poland. Beautifully painted wooden decorations, animals and children figures were the chief items which were used in Sweden. Tiny Danish flags, mobile of bells stars, snowflakes and small hearts were hanged to decorate the Christmas tree in Denmark. On the other hand, tiny fans and paper lamps were used during Christmas in Japan. The awe-inspiring trees were covered with straw bird cages, stars and geometric shapes in Lithuania. In the forthcoming year everyone wishes for good crops from the almighty through straw. Ornaments of painted egg shells were portrayed on Czechoslovakian trees.
To bring good luck in the daily life spider and web were used on the Christmas tree in Ukraine. According to a folktale an unfortunate and poor woman woke up in the early Christmas morning to find the branches wrapped with spider webs for decorating Christmas tree. She found out that the spider webs turned to silver by the bright sunlight of rising sun.
Legends of the Christmas tree:
Many legends exist about the origin of the Christmas tree. The organizer of Christian church in France and Germany, Saint Boniface, the English monk was the protagonist in one of these stories. Once upon a time when he was traveling, he came across a group of pagans who had congregated around an oak tree. He saw that these pagans were about to offer a sacrifice of human child to the God Thor. He eagerly wanted to stop them from taking the little fellow’s life. He decided to hit and break the tree with one mighty blow of his fist. A small fir tree was grown in place of the oak tree. According to Boniface the tree stood the eternal life of Christ. He told the pagan worshippers that the little fir tree symbolizes life.
There is another story of Martin Luther. Martin Luther was the founder of the protestant faith. While he was walking through a forest on a Christmas Eve, he was impressed by the beauty of millions of stars showing their lights through the evergreen tree branches. He was mesmerized with this fabulous vista and had decided to cut down a small tree. He took the tree for his family. To watch the same marvelous sight of the forest, he had decorated the wooden branches of the tree with a number of candles.
Another legend tells the story of an unfortunate woodsman who met a mislaid and starving child on one Christmas Eve. Even thought the woodsman was really poor but he arranged food and offered shelter to the child. The woodsman woke up in the very next morning to find a beaming tree outside his home and surprisingly he found one as well. The child was really the Christ child who camouflaged. The child rewarded the poor woodsman the glittering tree for his charity.
“Paradise Play” is the origin of Christmas tree, at least some feel it. Previously not many people could read. So, the plays were organized to teach the tales of the Bible all over Europe. The Paradise Play was performed on 24th December each year. It showed the creation of man. To perform it, apple trees were needed. But, in winter apple trees don’t bare fruits. So evergreens were hung with apples.
The story of spiders and Christmas trees were popular in Germany. In earlier days, people wanted their animals to be a part of the Christmas celebration because it was believed that the Christ child was born in a stable. So, they allowed their animals to come inside their homes to see the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. Homemakers didn’t allow spider to come inside their homes because they didn’t want to spoil things inside. Spiders were unhappy for this and they complained to the Christ child. The Christ child was sad for the spiders and helped them get into the home at late night to watch the Christmas tree. Spiders enjoyed the whole night, they moved slowly and happily from one branch to another. The trees were covered with webs. The housewives were really contented on the next day seeing what spiders had done. All the cobwebs were turned into the sparkling tinsel with the help of the Christ child. The tradition of decorating the Christmas tree with the tinsel is still followed.
Decorating the Christmas Tree: A Timeless Tradition
Enter into any of the departmental stores during the month of December and you will notice that plenty of decorating items like plastic ornaments, beaming garland and blinking lights are there in the store. Christmas has always been a popular holiday all over the world since the inception of the Christmas celebration. But, previously the home and various edifices were not adorned spending hefty amount of money. However, the scenario is different today. The ornaments that are used during Christmas for decoration have become costly. It is a multimillion dollar industry now. It is important to know how this tradition of adorning homes became very popular. It is an integral part of the Christmas decorations now.
The tradition of ornamenting the Christmas tree and homes during Christmas arose from the Roman and Christian cultures. Early Christians believed that flowers of certain trees were bloomed irrationally on Christmas Eve as homage to Jesus’ birth. The impressive traditions of decorating the homes with angel tree toppers have emerged from the early Christian belief and Roman practices.
Even though the Europeans had started to adorn various structures and trees in Europe from 17th century but the first written account of a “Christmas tree” had appeared in 1605. According to the John Matthew’s “The Winter Solstice”, German citizens used to decorate the trees with “roses cut out of many colored paper, apples, wafers, gold-foil, [and] sweets”. More than 100 years later, the professor Karl Gottfried Kissling of the University of Witten burg wrote that the people at that point of time loved to decorate trees and homes with candles.
The particular practice was not liked by the religious leaders initially. However, it spread all over the world later on. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of England showcased their lavishly decorated tree at their palace in 1840. By the early 1900s Offering gifts and the tales of Santa Clause became the integral parts of Christmas celebrations along with the Christmas tree decorations.
The patterns of decorations have changed over the years. Today evergreens are used in large numbers to adorn the Christmas trees. Hand crafted and edible items were predominately used previously. Nuts, candles, fruits and colored papers were the commonly used items for decorations. Ornaments brought from stores are used more often than not. Chain of electric lights is used to decorate the branches of the trees now. The essence of the festival is in the congregation of the family members at one particular place. Exchanging gifts and love still are the central ideas of the majestic Christmas carnival.
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Mistletoe is especially interesting botanically because it is a partial parasite (a “hemiparasite”). As a parasitic plant, it grows on the branches or trunk of a tree and actually sends out roots that penetrate into the tree and take up nutrients. But mistletoe is also capable for growing on its own; like other plants it can produce its own food by photosynthesis. Mistletoe, however, is more commonly found growing as a parasitic plant. There are two types of mistletoe. The mistletoe that is commonly used as a Christmas decoration (Phoradendron flavescens) is native to North America and grows as a parasite on trees in the west as also in those growing in a line down the east from New Jersey to Florida. The other type of mistletoe, Viscum album, is of European origin. The European mistletoe is a green shrub with small, yellow flowers and white, sticky berries which are considered poisonous. It commonly seen on apple but only rarely on oak trees. The rarer oak mistletoe was greatly venerated by the ancient Celts and Germans and used as a ceremonial plant by early Europeans. The Greeks and earlier peoples thought that it had mystical powers and down through the centuries it became associated with many folklore customs.
The Plant :
Mistletoe is especially interesting botanically because it is a partial parasite (a “hemiparasite”). As a parasitic plant, it grows on the branches or trunk of a tree and actually sends out roots that penetrate into the tree and take up nutrients. But mistletoe is also capable for growing on its own; like other plants it can produce its own food by photosynthesis. Mistletoe, however, is more commonly found growing as a parasitic plant. There are two types of mistletoe. The mistletoe that is commonly used as a Christmas decoration (Phoradendron flavescens) is native to North America and grows as a parasite on trees from New Jersey to Florida. The other type of mistletoe, Viscum album, is of European origin. The European mistletoe is a green shrub with small, yellow flowers and white, sticky berries which are considered poisonous. It commonly seen on apple but only rarely on oak trees. The rarer oak mistletoe was greatly venerated by the ancient Celts and Germans and used as a ceremonial plant by early Europeans. The Greeks and earlier peoples thought that it had mystical powers and down through the centuries it became associated with many folklore customs.
The Mistletoe Magic :
From the earliest times mistletoe has been one of the most magical, mysterious, and sacred plants of European folklore. It was considered to bestow life and fertility; a protection against poison; and an aphrodisiac. The mistletoe of the sacred oak was especially sacred to the ancient Celtic Druids. On the sixth night of the moon white-robed Druid priests would cut the oak mistletoe with a golden sickle. Two white bulls would be sacrificed amid prayers that the recipients of the mistletoe would prosper. Later, the ritual of cutting the mistletoe from the oak came to symbolize the emasculation of the old King by his successor. Mistletoe was long regarded as both a sexual symbol and the “soul” of the oak. It was gathered at both mid-summer and winter solstices, and the custom of using mistletoe to decorate houses at Christmas is a survival of the Druid and other pre-Christian traditions. The Greeks also thought that it had mystical powers and down through the centuries it became associated with many folklore customs. In the Middle Ages and later, branches of mistletoe were hung from ceilings to ward off evil spirits. In Europe they were placed over house and stable doors to prevent the entrance of witches. It was also believed that the oak mistletoe could extinguish fire. This was associated with an earlier belief that the mistletoe itself could come to the tree during a flash of lightning. The traditions which began with the European mistletoe were transferred to the similar American plant with the process of immigration and settlement.
Kissing under the mistletoe :
Kissing under the mistletoe is first found associated with the Greek festival of Saturnalia and later with primitive marriage rites. They probably originated from two beliefs. One belief was that it has power to bestow fertility. It was also believed that the dung from which the mistletoe would also possess “life-giving” power. In Scandinavia, mistletoe was considered a plant of peace, under which enemies could declare a truce or warring spouses kiss and make-up. Later, the eighteenth-century English credited 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. In some parts of England the Christmas mistletoe is burned on the twelfth night lest all the boys and girls who have kissed under it never marry. Whether we believe it or not, it always makes for fun and frolic at Christmas celebrations. Even if the pagan significance has been long forgotten, the custom of exchanging a kiss under the mistletoe can still be found in many European countries as well as in Canada. Thus if a couple in love exchanges a kiss under the mistletoe, it is interpreted as a promise to marry, as well as a prediction of happiness and long life. In France, the custom linked to mistletoe was reserved for New Year’s Day: “Au gui l’An neuf” (Mistletoe for the New Year). Today, kisses can be exchanged under the mistletoe any time during the holiday season.
The Legend :
For its supposedly mystical power mistletoe has long been at the center of many folklore. One is associated with the Goddess Frigga. 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. He was finally restored by Frigga, the goddess and his mother. 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.
4. Holly : The Christmas green
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The plant with its shiny green prickly leaves and red berry has come to stand for peace and joy, people often settle arguments under a holly tree. Holly is believed to frighten off witches and protect the home from thunder and lightning. In West England it is said sprigs of holly around a young girl’s bed on Christmas Eve are supposed to keep away mischievous little goblins. In England, British farmers put sprigs of holly on their beehives. On the first Christmas, they believed, the bees hummed in honor of the Christ Child. The English also mention the “he holly and the she holly” as being the determining factor in who will rule the household in the following year, the “she holly” having smooth leaves and the “he holly” having prickly ones. In Germany, a piece that has been used in church decorations is regarded as a charm against lightning. Other beliefs included putting a sprig of holly on the bedpost to bring sweet dreams and making a tonic from holly to cure a cough. All of these references give light to “decking the halls with boughs of holly.”
The sacredness of holly, however, finds a pagan origin. The Druids believed that holly, with its evergreen look keeps the earth beautiful when the sacred oak lost it leaves. They used to wear sprigs of holly in their hair when they went into the forest to watch their priests cut the sacred mistletoe.
Holly was the sacred plant of Saturn and was used at the Roman Saturnalia festival to honor him. Romans gave one another holly wreaths and carried them about decorating images of Saturn with it. Centuries later, in December, while other Romans continued their pagan worship, Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus. To avoid persecution, they decked their homes with Saturnalia holly. As Christian numbers increased and their customs prevailed, holly lost its pagan association and became a symbol of Christmas.
5. The legend of Glastonbury thorn
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6. The Poinsettia – Christmas Flower
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With its beautiful, red, star-shape poinsettia is a favorite flower in the United States. In Central America it is called the “Flame Leaf” or “Flower of the Holy Night”. Now very popular in the US, the American settlers were not quite familiar with this one only a couple of centuries back. A native of Mexico, it was brought here over a hundred years ago by Dr. Joel Poinsett, the first US ambassador to Mexico. Most of the poinsettias used these days come from California.
The legend of the poinsettia comes from Mexico. It tells of a girl named Maria and her little brother Pablo. They were very poor but always looked forward to the Christmas festival. Each year a large manger scene was set up in the village church, and the days before Christmas were filled with parades and parties. The two children loved Christmas but were always saddened because they had no money to buy presents. They especially wished that they could give something to the church for the Baby Jesus. But they had nothing.
One Christmas Eve, Maria and Pablo set out for church to attend the service. On their way they picked some weeds growing along the roadside and decided to take them as their gift to the Baby Jesus in the manger scene. Of course they were teased by other children 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 and so we see them today.
The Christmas Rose
The Christmas rose, also called the Snow or Winter Rose, is a well known English plant. It is traditionally regarded as a true Christmas flower. It blooms in the depths of winter in the mountains of Central Europe.
There is a nice legend associated with it. Legend links it with the birth of Christ and a little shepherdess named Madelon.
As Madelon tented her sheep one cold and wintry night, wise men and other shepherds passed by the snow covered field where she was with their gifts for the Christ Child. The wise men carried the rich gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense and the shepherds, fruits, honey and doves. Poor Madelon began to weep at the thought of having nothing, not even a simple flower for the Newborn King. An angel, seeing her tears, brushed away the snow revealing a most beautiful white flower tipped with pink – the Christmas rose.
Also in central and northern Europe it is the custom 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.
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Santa and His reindeers are associated together in Christmas traditions. As Santa is believed to have from the far away North, what else than a reindeer drawn sledge can serve as a better carriage?
It is man’s most ancient herd animal, the first animals being raised around 15,000 years ago. Up until about 12,000 years ago, reindeer grazed over a vast area of Europe. Rock paintings by primitive peoples featuring them are widespread, as are discoveries of tools made from reindeer horn. there was even a period of European prehistory in a part of France called Dordogne that is sometimes called “the civilization of reindeer.” The only surviving part of such a civilization might be found in Lapland, which is the northern part of Norway, Sweden and Finland.
There are only a few thousand Lapps, but they own herds of many thousands of reindeer. From them the Lapps obtain meat, milk, hair for weaving, hides to make tents and clothing, and horn, from which they make households. They are also used to pull heavily laden sleds. It is all these multiple uses that have made reindeer so endearing to people in the North.
Caribou, the name by which the Americans are more familiar with reindeer, comes from an Indian word.
8. The Fact & The Legend The Christmas star
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The Christmas star has traditionally been associated with the spirit of the celebration. What is so special about it?
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 minutes 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.
9. Christmas Ornaments
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The tradition of Christmas trees and Christmas Ornaments is a much disputed one what with several theories about their origin doing the rounds for a long time. The most popular theory holds that the tradition was started by a monk who came to Germany in the 7th/8th century to preach. It is said that this monk was Saint Boniface, the Apostle of the Germans. According to history, the saint was the first one to bring a fir tree to the German people to decorate, for he claimed that its triangular shape represented the Holy Trinity – God, his son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. The tradition was lapped up by the devout Germans who started decorating the Christmas tree in a liturgical way with simple, white candles. This however, changed in the 15th century when ornaments began to be incorporated into the Christmas decorations in Germany. In Latvia, circa 1510, a fir tree was decorated with roses which was associated with the Virgin Mary. This event is often hailed as the pioneer of modern Christmas decorations.
In 1605, a tree in Strasbourg (a city on the Rhine in eastern France near the German border) was brought indoors and adorned with paper roses, lighted candles, wafers, nuts, and sweets. This is said to be a groundbreaking moment in the history of Christmas decorations for it kicked off a new trend, adornment of the Christmas tree in an indoor setting. With time, the decorative ornaments grew more diverse and each family used its own inventiveness to beautify the Christmas trees. Later decorations included painted eggshells, cookies, and candies. The high point came with the introduction of tinsel in 1610, an item that has been a favorite decorative item since. Tinsel was originally made with pure silver.
As time passed, the Christmas tree traditions gradually found their way into English homes where the decorations began to be more ornate what with glass beads and hand-sewn snowflakes being used to adorn the trees. With the arrival of the 1800’s, the Christmas tree tradition eventually began to invade the American homes.
The first decade of the 1800s saw in the Christmas tree decorations the use of such eatables as fruit (specially apples) and nuts. But why were these began to be used? The reason was not far to seek. These were the items that would grow on trees. Moreover, along with the evergreen trees themselves, these fruits symbolized the regeneration of life in the spring season. Soon other fruits also began to be hung on the trees, along with paper streamers and bits of shiny metal foil. It was from this time that the idea of reflecting the light of the room on the tree came into being. Christmas is, after all, a season of lights and merriment. The idea, hence, soon became popular. One more concept arose during this period and began to be practiced with much enthusiasm by many German homes. It was the use of foods like gingerbread or other hard cookies, that began to be baked in varied shapes as fruits, stars, bells, hearts, angels and were used in the decorations. The idea was a great hit with the German folks.
As the tradition of Christmas trees and ornaments became more widespread, each country added its own ingenuity to the decorations. Americans, for example, would string long strands of cranberries or popcorn to encircle their trees. In the UK, imaginative ornaments of lace, paper or other items showed the ingenuity and skill of their makers. Small newspaper scraps or magazine illustrations also began to be used in the family Christmas tree decorations. Small gifts were other items that began to be hung on the trees, sometimes contained in little handcrafted baskets, nestled in the crook of a branch or just suspended by a small piece of thread. In fact, so much of decorative items began to be used during this period that with each passing year it became increasingly difficult to actually see the tree beneath the ornaments.
It is to be noted that until the 1880s, Christmas tree decorations had mainly been the creative domain of family and friends and the only ornaments available in the market were German hand-cast lead and hand-blown glass decorations. But the 1880s saw many German entrepreneurs seriously thinking of manufacturing ornaments on a mass scale and selling these strictly as Christmas ornaments. The idea was soon translated into reality. The glass firms around Lauscha, the hub of the glass ornament trade in Germany, which had until then been engaged in making glass articles such as bottles and marbles soon began to create little glass toys like molds of children, saints, famous people, animals and other forms and released them in the market. This new type of Christmas ornament was an instant success and was met with a huge demand. Soon, nearly every family in and around Lauscha became involved in some way or other in the creation of Christmas glass ornaments working either in a factory or in a home-based foundry. Now each ornament had a touch of individual craftsmanship and became highly prized possessions. As a result, Germany went on to capture the world market in Christmas ornaments made from glass molds and for a long time was the major world source for glass ornaments. Most hand-blown glass ornaments used for decorations on Christmas trees came exclusively from Germany.
As the tradition of Christmas tree decorations had, by then, already caught on in the United States, F.W. Woolworth, one of the foremost American mass merchandisers, began importing German glass ornaments into the country in the 1880s. By 1890, he was reportedly selling $25 million worth of them.
The history of German Christmas ornaments is incomplete without a mention of the non-glass ornaments that were manufactured in Dresden, a city near to Lauscha. The artisans in Dresden constructed brightly colored ornaments resembling fish, birds and other animals out of pressed and embossed paper and fitted nicely with the Christmas ornament traditions. These were also suitable for other festivals and merry occasions such as birthday parties, weddings and any other event worth celebrating. Like the glass ornaments, these too were a hit everywhere.
Other ornaments around this time consisted of items made of pressed tin with brightly colored printed surfaces. Thin foil strips, which are better known today as ‘icicles’ or tinsel, also began to be created in Germany and found much favor with Christmas celebrants the world over.
The long reign of Queen Victoria saw a revival of the Christmas celebrations that had been lying low for a while. An illustration of her family around their Christmas tree, that appeared in December, 1860 in Godey’s Lady’s Book, inspired Americans as well as the British to embrace again the Christmas celebrations without any inhibition. Carols, festivity, sumptuous feasting and of course Christmas trees and Christmas tree decorations gained prominence once again.
With the commencement of the Twentieth century, Christmas began to grow more and more popular among most Europeans and Americans and began to be celebrated with gusto. It was during this period that the German monopoly over the Christmas ornament market was broken. Since 1925, Japan challenged Germany’s dominance over the world market by producing ornaments on a huge scale. They brought in newer, more colorful designs and began to bite off the German market. Later, Czech Republic also entered the competition with an impressive amount of fancy Christmas ornaments. By 1935, more than 250 million Christmas tree ornaments were being imported to America. Christmas ball and bauble ornaments have been quite popular since then.
Despite stiff competition from Czech Republic, Japan and several other countries Germany retained a solid market base the world over because of originality in the handicraft, even when produced in a huge scale for an ever-increasing number of consumers. This was because the German ornaments were all handmade, by people who often followed ancestral glass making traditions, something that showed in their creations and continued to attract Christmas celebrants all over the world.
World War I had a tremendous impact on the world market and the German glass industry was not exempt from it. The War created a momentary backlash against all things German. Though it was not long staying and the production and purchase of German glass ornaments began in earnest soon after the War, the threat of another war approaching was felt by many. Max Eckhardt, a US businessman associated with the glass ornament trade felt that his business could be greatly affected by possible hostilities as another war was to mean stopping of shipments from Germany. This made him think of a way of producing glass ornaments right in the heart of America. He knew that the Corning Company of Corning, New York had a type of machine that ordinarily made thousands of light bulbs out of a ribbon of glass. Now what he needed was only to persuade the Corning Company to determine a way to make American glass ornaments. In the late 1930’s, Eckhardt teamed up with a representative of F.W. Woolworth and succeeded in doing just that! Sensing a golden opportunity, the Corning Company agreed to see if its machine (one of which now resides at The Henry Ford, America’s Greatest History Attraction, in Dearborn, Michigan) could successfully produce glass ornaments and meet with popular demand. And this was soon worked out successfully.
The Corning produced glass ornaments met with a resounding success. By 1940, the company was making ornaments on a much larger scale than the manually produced German items, and sending them to other companies for decoration. The biggest customer was none other than Max Eckhardt who by now had established an All-American company known as Shiny Brite. Then the World War II broke out in 1939 which caused severe material shortages and forced Corning to do away with the earlier practice of making the inside of the ornaments silvered on the inside (to make them shine brightly for longer periods) and instead decorate the clear glass balls with simple thin stripes in pastel colors which required much less metallic oxide pigment. Fortunately, Corning was able to alter its machines to produce an increased variety of shapes and sizes of glass ball without using scarce war material. But the war crisis resulted in a forced replacement of the sturdy metal cap (that held the little hook for hanging the ornaments) to a cardboard one.
Post World War II, F.W. Woolworth’s highly popular “Five-and-dime stores”, it’s competitor Kresge and Neisner’s and some more department stores like Macy’s and Gimbel’s were the main source of Christmas ornaments and decorations. The purchase of these ornaments were, however, limited to a few commemorative ornaments a year. Complexity and variety of ornaments were the driving engines of ornament sales.
The end of the Second World War also found most of Lauscha’s glassworks turn into state-owned entities. The production of baubles in Lauscha ceased. The fall of the Berlin Wall resulted in most of the firms being reestablished as private companies. Only about 20 small glass-blowing firms are active in Lauscha today. Although glass baubles are still produced, baubles are now made mainly of plastic and available worldwide in a huge variety of shapes, colors and designs.
Christmas ornaments are now an indispensable part of Christmas tree decorations. The manufacture and sale of Christmas ornaments makes one of the greatest markets worldwide. Despite being increasingly commercialized, the use of Christmas ornaments lend its own special charm, an alacrity to the old tradition of Christmas every year and infuse true enthusiasm in the Christmas celebrations.
10. Origin and Secrets of Christmas Elves
‘Merry Christmas 2019’
Secrets and Origin
Elves are known to be tiny, dwarf-like creatures, either male or female, with pointed ears. They are youthful but immortal and have magical powers that can control what you see and experience. Their abodes are said to be underground, in forests, or in springs and wells, but no one really knows about it because they keep their location a secret! It is also believed that on the 6th of January the elves light up their torches and come down from their secret village in the mountain to play in a hidden field to celebrate the last day of Christmas.
But do you know who these elves are? Are they real creatures or just a myth? What is the story behind their origin? What is the secret behind them?
Elves have a fascinating history that is associated with Germanic paganism. Elves are originally seen to be the creation of Germanic paganism who thought them to be the creatures of light who lived in the heavens. Elves have been depicted as male or female, tiny or dwarf-like, youthful and immortal with magical powers. Later they were often referred to as living underground, in forests, springs and wells. Elves generally were magical beings who could control what people see as well as experience. Elves and fairies are also highly associated with the mushroom “Amanita Muscaria”, also referred to as “magic mushrooms” not only in art but in Psychedelic experiences.
Centuries ago, in the pagan times, Scandinavian people believed that elves are house gnomes who guarded their homes against evil. If you were good, the elves were good to you, but if you were bad, the mischievous elves would play tricks on you. Although these gnomes mostly were benevolent, they could quickly turn nasty when not properly treated, so it is told. Some of the tricks they enjoyed playing were giving you nightmares by sitting on your head while you were dreaming, tangling your hair as you slept, making your milk turn sour, and stealing your sausages. Folks believed that if they left a bowl of porridge on the doorstep at night, the elves would be happy and not subject them to their ornery antics. Throughout the centuries, they were either loved or loathed. Some people even believed them to be trolls and cannibals. The perception of gnomes largely depended on whether a person was naughty, or nice.
By the mid-1800’s the true purpose of the elves was revealed by the Scandinavians. Elves – already a tradition associated with story telling and magic, assumed a new significance in the mid-1800’s and their true intention began to be held as nothing else but to help Father Christmas (Santa Claus). This was the handiwork of the popular Scandinavian writers of the day. At this time, elaborate Christmas festivals regained popularity and Scandinavian story writers such as Thile, Toplius, Rydberg sketched the elves’ true role in modern life: fairies that are somewhat mischievous, but the true friends and helpers of Father Christmas. It is during this period when the elves began to be referred to as the “Christmas elves”, or simply “elves”, and not “house gnomes” anymore. Artists such as Hansen and Nystrm completed the picture of elves for us. It is now began to be held that the elves help Santa design and make the wonderful toys and gifts he brings to children. They were said to have other duties as well. Some elves take care of Santa’s reindeer and keep his sleigh in good condition, ready to fly through the skies on Christmas Eve. Others help Santa keep his naughty and nice list in order, and some elves guard the secret location of Santa’s village. Elves make sudden appearances in the days before Christmas, to keep an eye on each children and see which of them are behaving well and obeying their parents. They are believed to be Santa’s secret agents and report their findings back to him. Children who are unkind and misbehave have their names added to the naughty list and may wake up Christmas morning to find their filled with lumps of coal or bundles of twigs!
The elves could be helpful now. Their mischievousness, however, was still evident in the variety of stories told about them. Tales suggested that how you were treated by the elves depended on whether the person was thought to be naughty or nice! Particularly in America, the diminutive, green with pointy ears type are depicted as Santa’s helpers making toys in his workshop at the North Pole.
At one stage it was thought that the elves live in Father Christmas’ (Santa’s) village in North Pole. However, in 1925 it was discovered that there are no reindeer in the North Pole but there are lots in Lapland, Finland. Since reindeers draw the sleigh of Santa Claus, he must be living in an area, where there are large number of these animals available. Since then, it is believed that there is a secret village with a secret passage, somewhere in Lapland, where Santa, his wife and his team of elves live. Nobody has actually seen their village because the passage to it is a secret that is known only to Father Christmas and the elves. But people believe that it is somewhere on the Korvatunturi mountain in the Savukoski county of Lapland, Finland, which is on the Finnish-Russian border.
Some people that Santa employs six elves, while others think that he has nine elf assistants. Others think that there are as many as 13 elves living with Santa to help him. Elves are the children of Gryla and Leppaludi and are very clever. They help Santa to design toys and process requests of children that are sent to them through snail mail or emails. The popular Western names of the Christmas elves helping Santa Claus are:
1. Alabaster Snowball (Administrator of the Naughty & Nice list).
2. Bushy Evergreen (Inventor of the magic toy-making machine).
3. Pepper Minstix (Guardian of the secret of where Father Christmas’s village is located).
4. Shinny Upatree (The oldest friend of Santa and the cofounder of the secret village in Lapland).
5. Sugarplum Mary (Head of the Sweat Treats, she is also known as Mary Christmas. She is an assistant to Mrs Claus and helps her in the kitchen).
6. Wunorse Openslae (Designer of Father Christmas’s sleigh and responsible for its maintenance. He also looks after the reindeers and it is believed that his reindeers reach speeds faster than Christmas tree lights).
The ancient folklores of Iceland mention elves by the names of Askasleikir, Bjugnakraekir, Faldafeykir, Gattathefur, Giljagaur, Gluggagaegir, Ketkrokur, Kertasnikir, Pottasleikir, Skyrjarmur, Stekkjarstaur, Stufur and Thvorusleikir. Other names of Santa’s elves that can be found are Baggalutur, Bjalmans barnid, Bjalminn sjalfur, Bitahaengir, Frodusleikir, Laekjaraegir, Raudur, Redda, Sledda, Steingrimur, Syrjusleikir, Tifill and Tutur.
According to some legends and post-Christian folklore especially in Europe, elves are mischievous pranksters who make special appearances during the lead up to Christmas. For example “Albtraum” is a German word for nightmare which also means “elf dream”. Earlier the word meant “elf pressure” as it was believed that nightmares are a result of an elf sitting on the dreamer’s head! Elves also were believed to braid people’s hair while sleeping, make milk sour and run off with sausages. People of Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway believed that a bowl of porridge left out would prevent elves from playing tricks on people especially during the festive season! Today, elves associated with Christmas are symbols to remind children to be good and not naughty!
11. Some Light On the date of Christmas
‘Merry Christmas 2019’
Don’t bet the farm
First off, they didn’t exactly keep birth records of the common folk in 0 or 1 or 2 AD (not to say that Jesus was common, but well, you know the story.) Secondly, even if they did, there’s the problem of leap year. Every four years the powers that be add an extra day to compensate for a less than perfect rotation of the earth. The Romans even didn’t know about that, convoluting time and calendars even more.
Plus some people back then used a lunar calendar and some used the solar version that we use today. Finally, the authors of the Gospels (Mathew and Luke particularly) either didn’t know or didn’t think it was important enough to mention the date of Jesus’ birth. Who even knows if they recognized birthdays in ancient Judea?
The bottom line is that nobody knows the exact date of Jesus’ birth, but the smart money is betting that it was sometime in early spring. There’s some historical data, but the best hint is that famous story about shepherds tending their flocks by night. Shepherds tend to only stay up with the sheep during lambing season, and lambing season is in spring. But since no one knows, you might as well go along with the spirit of the season and enjoy all the cheer and good will towards men.
There is, however, some interesting history to the day we choose to remember the birth of the Christ child. It’s not just some random date that somebody pulled out of a hat you know.
There have been festivals of every sort around the winter solstice going back to the Babylonians. But it was the Roman Emperor
Aurelia who fixed the actual date. He called December 25th “The Birthday of the Unconquered Sun”, and put it right in the middle of the feast of Saturnalia. (The Romans really knew how to have a feast: Saturnalia lasted a week.)
This was a always a time a great merry making there were big dinners, halls bedecked with laurels and green trees, people carrying lighted candles through the streets, and the giving of gifts was a common practice. In fact, you might say that the Christmas spirit is really the spirit of Saturnalia passed on over time.
Enter the Christians
The Christians, in the meantime, were having the “Mass of Christ” at various times and places. This wasn’t a commemoration of the birth of Jesus so much as it was a time to reflect on His life and acts. So, when Constantine made Christianity the religion of Rome, the Catholics needed a way to convert the pagans running around the streets of Rome with their candles and presents to Christian practices.
One imagines it went a little something like this: “You have an unconquered sun, we have an unconquered Son. You give gifts — we have wise men bringing gifts. You have bonfires and lamps and candles — we have a new star. It’s not really all that hard put the two together.” Or something like that.
So, the pagans became Christians, and everybody got a day to celebrate selflessness, joy, and light.
12. The Birth of Jesus‘Merry Christmas 2019’
Nazareth, a village of Palestine
Some 2000 years ago a young lady, named Mary, about 15 years of age, was praying in her home. All of a sudden she saw a stranger standing before her. She did not know how he had come in. The visitor was brighter than the light of day, and Mary frightened. She understood that he was not a man but an angel, when he greeted her: ” Hail, you who are full of grace; the Lord is with you.”
The angel told her not to be afraid. Then he conveyed her the message that she would bear a son to be called Jesus.” He shall be great,” said the angel. “and men will know him for the Son of the Most High,” which is one of the names of God. The Lord God would give him the throne of his ancestor, David, king of the Jews; he would make him a king, but one different from earthly kings, for unlike human kingdoms and empires, ” his kingdom,” said the angel, ” shall never have an end.” Mary who was not yet married, asked the angel how it could be. He answered her: ” The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”
Mary had always been obedient to the law of God, bow she confirmed that his will was hers. Thus this humble maid was chosen to become the mother of one, whom the angel called the Son of the Most High, to be named Jesus, which means Savior.
She remembered that 700 years earlier Prophet Isaiah, had foretold: “A virgin will conceive”. It was also announced that the Savior would be of the family of David to which she belonged, as did Joseph, the young man to whom she was betrothed. Mary, full of joy, thanked God daily for his gift. Her elder cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, also congratulated her on being God’s choice.
Some time later, Mary was married to a young man of David’s clan, called Joseph. A carpenter by profession, he was God-fearing, pious and of great virtue. Before the marriage, learning Mary’s condition, he had felt puzzled. But during the night, in a dream an angel of God reassured him, inviting him to take Mary as his wife, for it was by the power of the Holy Spirit that she had conceived a child. “Mary”, the angel said, “will bear a Son, whom you shall call Jesus, for he is to save his people from their sins.” So Joseph took Mary into his house; he kept her secret and protected the all pure virgin, ready to become the guardian of her Child.
A few months after the marriage, Joseph and Mary left Nazareth and traveled to Bethlehem, the birth place of King David. The Roman Emperor, Augustus, wanting to know the size of the population of his empire, had ordered a census to be taken. In Palestine, a province of the Empire, the Governor issued orders that all Jews should register their names in their ancestral home town. Joseph set out for Bethlehem on foot, leading a donkey on which sat Mary. They traveled peacefully for 4-5 days. When they reached Bethlehem, the town and the local inn were crowded with visitors. Joseph and Mary found shelter and privacy in one of the grottoes situated outside the town. There shepherds sometimes took refuge with their sheep during the night. In this grotto Mary was delivered of a son. She wrapped him in swaddling-clothes and laid him to rest in a manger, where they kept the food for the animals. Jesus, the Savior, was born into the world.
He was born in absolute poverty and simplicity. But God wanted the world to hear of the good news without delay.
At a short distance from Bethlehem, a group of shepherds had gathered their flocks for the night’s rest. All of a sudden, they were awakened and startled by a bright apparition, such as they had never seen before. They heard an angel announce to them: “Do not be afraid; behold the news I bring you is good news of a great rejoicing for the whole people. This day in the city of David, a Savior has been born for you, no other than the Lord Christ. This is the sign by which you are to know him; you will find a child still in swaddling-clothes, lying in a manger.”
Without delay, they started in search of the Lord Christ. The city of David they knew was Bethlehem. There they went to those grottoes and looked inside. In one of them, they saw a man and a woman watching over a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. Entering it they told of the angel who had announced to them the happy news. Having paid their homage to the young king, and offered some little lambs in token of their devotion, they went back to their flocks, their hearts full of joy. They marveled that the Child-King was so feeble, so approachable to poor people like them, with dirty hands, patched clothes, but hearts melting like butter in the sun of his life.
Eight days after birth the Boy was circumcised according to the religious prescriptions of the Jews, and given the name Jesus as the angel had told. On the 40th day Jesus was taken to Jerusalem to be offered to God in the temple. As they entered the temple, a man of great holiness called Simeon, stepped forward to meet them. God had revealed to him that he would not die before seeing the Savior. Led by the Spirit he had come to the temple, where he met Mary and Joseph bringing the Child Jesus.
The Child was also recognized by an old woman called Anna, a widow 84 years old. Her husband died 7 years after the marriage and it was since then she had lived a life of prayer, in expectation of the Savior. The priest took the Child, and offered him to God without comment; he did not know who he was. An old man and an old woman alone had greeted the Lord coming to his temple. They had acknowledged the end of the old Law, which like Simeon could now retire from the stage of history. The old Law was antiquated; the time had come for its exit. The old order could retire with Simeon and Anna, whilst the new order was being prepared into the world by Mary.
It was then Joseph and Mary came back to Bethlehem. They settled down in a house where they were to receive some remarkable visitors.
A group of wise men, called Magi, had seen an unknown star moving in the heavens some time previously. They knew that the Messias was expected about this time, and connected the appearance of this star with the birth of one. They felt an inclination to follow the star, which seemed to invite them. They set off on their camels, provided with presents for the newborn king and journeyed to Jerusalem. In quest of a young king, these scholars, men of high standing, entered into King Herod’s residence to enquire where they could find the newly born king of the Jews. The news of Messias’ birth astonished all in the palace. For they knew nothing of this. Herod, a half-Bedouin succeeded in getting to the throne with the support of the Romans, and contrived to remain on it with the help of spies and assassins. This proud and selfish ruler was not a man to accept any challenge to his authority and decided that the young competitor must disappear. The scholars told Herod that Bethlehem was named by the holy scriptures to be the birth place of the Savior, Herod had directed these pilgrims from the East to continue their journey to Bethlehem, and find the young king out there. He also instructed them to call again on their return journey, to inform him of the whereabouts of the Child; he himself wished to go and pay him homage, he added.
On leaving Jerusalem, the wise men were overjoyed to see again the star. It led them to Bethlehem and stopped above the place where the Child lay. They entered the house they prostrated themselves at the feet of the Child with deep faith. Then opening the treasures they had brought, offered their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
After paying homage to the Child, the Magi started on their way home. They avoided Jerusalem, having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod.
Soon understood that they had eluded him. Greatly angered and anxious for his throne, he sent soldiers to Bethlehem with orders to kill all male children below the age of two years. The soldiers reached there and did as ordered.
Herod did not know that this massacre was useless. For, Joseph, warned by an angel in his sleep, had taken the Child and his mother Mary away. They were on the road to Egypt, the road to voluntary exile. The Light had come to the world and men whose actions were bad tried to extinguish this light: they preferred to live in darkness to keep their bad deeds secret. To Joseph and Mary, Egypt meant safety, but also the bitter bread exile in a land where the Jew had been a captive doing the work of slaves. Despite all these the Child was safe. Joseph and Mary, accustomed to hard work, with simple needs, kept in perfect peace their soul centered on God. He had saved the Child from the sword of Herod’s executioners, he would protect them in all circumstances.
Meanwhile, King Herod, a man of incredible cruelty and duplicity, a killer of his own wives and grown-up sons had been arrested by his own son. There he had developed fatal illness. And died shrouded in curses and the hatred of the whole population. With his death there spread over Jerusalem and the whole state a general sense of relief. Once again the angel warned Joseph in his sleep that he could now take the Child and Mary back into his own country. Soon Joseph and Mary along with the Child went back to his own country into Galilee to the village of Nazareth. Henceforth, the Child of Joseph and Mary, the Messias, would be known by all as the son of Joseph, the carpenter from Nazareth.
13. Gifts and Traditions ‘Merry Christmas 2019’
True to the spirit of O. Henry’s classic short story, we can hardly think of a Christmas without Gifts.
Christmas is a unique festival of merry making and gift-giving. The tradition of giving gifts in this season owes its origin to the Magi who came from the east of Jerusalem to greet the Babe in the manger with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The Magi were wise men and their gifts were emblematic of tribute, worship and death – of Christ considered as King, God and the sacrificial Victim.
Though Magi are associated more with the Feast of Epiphany on January 6, they can be regarded as the pioneer in gift-giving tradition following the birth of Jesus.
In America gift giving has come to be associated with the Christmas not long ago. It came in with the introduction of St. Nicholas in America by the early Dutch settlers. But, giving gifts at New Year was a common practice, specially among the English and the French settlers. But the combined German and Dutch influences in time caused all gift-giving to be carried out at Christmas.
New York has had through the years a close association with X’mas gift giving tradition. This tradition was more inspired by many writers and artists who’ve had glorified the gift-giving culture along with the Santa. And it had been New York with which all their works could somehow be attributed. From Dr. Clement Clark Moore to cartoonist Thomas Nast, Washington Irving to O’ Henry all happened to be a New Yorker. Even Charles Dickens read his “A Christmas Carol” in N.Y.
Christmas gifts embrace so much of variety, it’s amazing to see their range and diversity.
With so many things to gift with, most of us turn into a confused lot pondering over. Which gift would be apt? Which one is to be given to the near and dear ones, to businesses and bosses, to clients and colleagues and…, well your head starts reeling.
So don’t let ideas take over you. Keep your head cool. Chill out with some perky holiday music. Get a beverage, get your Christmas list ready, clear your head, and here you go!
We have worked on some gift ideas and idea-lines for the festive season of Christmas. Hope you will find them handy and nifty as well.
We also give some shopping links below, so you can shop from the comfort of your home.
Please do use them to indulge in your season’s shopping spree and help us serve you better.
As simple as a bunch of nice flowers, or a basket of season’s fruits; a box of candy or a pack of chocolates; a piece of toy or a rare species of sprouting plant; an item of trivia or an object d’art; sheer utilities like a set of cutlery or something that pampers luxury like a box of jewelry…The list can go on and on. However, it ultimately rests on the tastes of both the gift-giver and the recipient’s, the background of their relationship, along with their age and the social background. And also remember, gifts might not necessarily be rich and glamorous in their worldly possession, but make sure that they’re rich at heart.
The idea bulb:
Take a pencil and a rough pad. Try to virtually out guess the receipt. Toy with every feasible liking of your gift-takers. Are they sport lovers or hikers? Keen on new dresses or shoes? Theater or movie buffs? Party hoppers or getaway seekers? Art lovers or cool on crafts? Connoisseurs of classical or contemporaries? Habitual readers or glossy pickers?
Still confused? Be more specific:
* whether they have any special hobby or interest.
* whether any of their relatives or friends could help me find more about them.
* whether there is an event, theater, etc… they would like to go
* whether they would like to visit or see something else e.g. the nature park, the local zoo, the museum.
* whether they would enjoy seeing any sports event.
* whether there is some sport they would like to try or do themselves.
* whether there is some special food item and of some special brand (if any) they would like have on the occasion.
* whether there is something special that they talk about, but never buy for themselves?
* whether they are growing. Do they need clothes? Shoes? Teddies and cuddly dolls? Learning toys? books?
* whether there is a magazine you could give as a gift. Yearly subscription?
* whether they have been asked to recommend gifts that they need or want? If no, ask.
* whether there is a personal item you could create, that they would enjoy having.
* whether you can help them purchase something that they need.
Well, Have you thought about these options? If yes, now you should have ideas abound. If you still are nail biting, a Gift Certificate is always an option.
Great is also the idea of gifting a ticket to a favorite sporting event – may be a football or baseball match to ride the crest of excitements; or an entertainment show – like a movie or concert and, of course, to a theater show, if it agrees with the receiver’s choice and matches your affordability.
14. The Fly Agaric Mushroom Merry Christmas 2019
The Amanita muscaria mushroom, commonly known as the fly agaric mushroom, is another symbol of Christmas. Though not as popular as the X’mas tree or the baby Jesus, it is well known in those nations where Christianity is the dominant religion.
The symbol, however, has little to do with Christianity. It has historically been proved that Christmas, despite being a Christian holiday, owes most of its symbols and icons to Shamanism, an occult philosophy of the tribal people of Northern Europe in a pre-Christian era. The Amanita muscaria found a place among the various rituals practiced by these people. The mushroom is thought to contain hallucinogenic compounds that when used, is believed to give illusionary experiences that many ancient people mistook as transcendental visions.
Incidentally, one of the drawings in an ancient Peruvian vessel shows a divine messenger offering a sacred mushroom to a ruler seated on a throne. Inscribed below this is “Teonanactl”, an Aztec word that when literally translated, stands as “Flesh of the God”.
All these supposedly “divine” associations of the mushroom as also the fact that it is found to grow at the base of the pine tree makes is believed to have made it a symbol for Christmas. The idea gained further strength in 1970, when in his book “The mushroom and the cross”, author John Marco Allegro indicated that Christianity and Judaism are based on a cult that worshipped the Amanita muscaria and Jesus Christ himself was the personification of Amanita muscaria.