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History of Christmas Past
by Jack Wellman
2007-12-02 10:22:39
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Christmas is the most widely celebrated holiday among the nations. There are as many different traditions as there are nations that observe it. For example the poinsettias were embraced by America when their Mexican representative, Joel R. Poinsett, brought back this green and red plant that blooms in the winter. Christmas, as we know it today, is largely a product of the Victorian Age in the 1860s.

Santa Clause, or more specifically Saint Nicholas, was Europe’s most popular image of Christmas and by the end of the Renaissance was it’s most admired saint. His benevolence was primarily directed toward children and their necessities of life and not originally toys. For example, even a lump of coal was something of value in the dead of winter and considered practical. However, don’t pout children, it was accompanied with other trinkets or toys in stockings.

Swiss and German children, who were well-behaved, were said to be most deserving of Kris Kringle’s gifts. The friendly witch, La Befana, rides her broom down Italian chimney’s to stuff children’s stockings with toys. In Scandinavia, it was Jultomten who brought presents in a goat-powered sleigh. To the English, it was Father Christmas. Pere Noel is the French version of this children’s stocking stuffer.

Many years ago Babouschka believes she gave the Three Wise Men wrong directions to Bethlehem and thus to baby Jesus. To make amends she leaves presents by Russian children’s bedsides, in the hope that one of them would be the baby Jesus. In Nordic countries, the people observed this time of the year, from December 21st through January, as a celebration of the sun’s beginning it’s trek form the shortest day light-period (darkest day) to increasingly longer day’s with sun.

The Finns thoroughly enjoy 'Hyvää Joulua!' or the “Peace of Christmas” on Christmas Eve. Most of the nation resides in a sauna that night listening to a national broadcast. Tradition holds that this is a day of observation of departed friends and family. Gravesites are visited and those departed are remembered. Perhaps this is where the “peace” comes from.

Norway is the birthplace of the Yule Log, which is the Norse word for 'wheel'. This refers to the circuit the sun takes annually with Christmas being its beginning point of its circuit. During the 17th century in early America and England, observing Christmas was illegal. Thus certain customs were born. For example, the candy cane was a disguised reference to Jesus Christ. The red strips represented the bloodied strips He received and the white strips declared His purity. The j-shaped is obviously symbolic of His name.

As for Christmas’ future, you and your family have yet to fulfil it. You may have your own traditions or might want to start your own. Our family puts up the Christmas tree (thanks Germany for this contribution) on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Whatever your nationality, Merry Christmas, or in your own native tongue:

Finland - Hyvää Joulua!
France - Joyeux Noël!
Germany - Froehliche Weihnachten!
Greece - Καλά Χριστούγεννα
Italy - Buone Natale!
Mexico - Feliz Navidad!
Norway - Gledelig Jul!
Sweden - God Jul!
Ukraine - Srozhdestvom Kristovym!
United States, England and parts of Canada - Merry Christmas

However you say it, Merry Christmas to you and your family from ours.

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Emanuel Paparella2007-12-03 06:59:21
In Italy the salutation is Buon Natale. Natale literally means "birth." What is being celebrated is the birth of somebody who was the light of the world, came into the world, and the world knew him not...(St. John's prologue). All over Europe and the US we are now being told that to say Merry Christmas is offensive; the politically correct salutation is Happy holidays. So the question is: what exactly is being celebrated?

Emanuel Paparella2007-12-03 07:06:39
P.Sl Interesting too that San Nicola, a saint from Anatolia is buried abd veberated in a cathedral in Bari but precious few know it. The jolly old man from the North Pole has substituted St. Nicholas while La Befana, the witch, has substituted the three kings (the astrolegers) bearing gifts for the new born king on the feast of the Epiphany (January 6). Reminiscences and ruminations on Christmas.

Jack2007-12-04 22:06:37
I agree Emanuel. Political correctness is oft taken too far; akin to walking on egg shells...thinking of liability issues everywhere and all the while, never being able to be quite sure, who to say Merry Christmas too or simply happy holidays. Thus, most flow with the greater masses and wish happy holiday. As for our home, without Christ it isn't merry. Next perhaps, Happy Winter Solstice Day and a Happy New Calendar Year.

Jack2007-12-05 00:48:00
The word Christmas is actually a contraction of Christ and Mass (another name for a religious service). It is observed on December 25th which is held to be the traditional day of Jesus birth.

The ancient Middle English word Christemasses, was first used in 1038 A.D. In early Greek versions of the New Testament, the letter X (chi) is the first letter of Christ (Χριστός). This is where the abbreviation “Xmas” came from.

Saint Nicholas was a fourth century Bishop (overseer) of a church in Asia Minor (now Turkey) who attended the Council of Nicea. He is not only one of the most popular of saints, he is known as the Patron Saint of Children and His day is actually December 6th, but he gave throughout the year. He not only left toys but clothing, shoes, etc. for especially needy children. Children of the rich had no need of St. Nicholas but the poor received little if anything.

The Dutch name for Saint Nicholas was Sinterklaas, hence the name Santa Clause. Santa is simply Spanish for Saint.

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