My Christmas Pages 2001
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H i s t o r y
Though the approach of the holiday season begins as early as Halloween, its highlight is no doubt Christmas.
The origins of the holiday are most likely from the various winter solstice celebrations that were commonplace during Christianity's early days. The exact date of Jesus Christ's birth has never been established, and though his birth is the main reason for the celebration of Christmas, the timing was chosen to coincide with other popular holidays of the season, such as the Roman Saturnalia festival and the Persian commemoration of the birth of Mithra, called Sol Invictus (Unconquerable Sun), both of which have a substantial connection to the winter solstice.
In fact the winter solstice, being the shortest day of the year and marking the beginning of increasing daylight in the northern hemisphere, where the holiday originated, and thus the approaching end of winter, has a tangible role in the development of Christmas as a holiday, including all the references to light, which are frequently manifested in the form of Jesus or the way of life illuminated and encouraged by God.
Christmas Eve is the culmination of the Advent, the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas observed in honor of the birth of Christ.
With the arrival of Christmas Eve, the preparations for the holiday are finally complete, and as described in the first several lines of Clement C. Moore's infamous poem The Night Before Christmas: "…when all through the house/ Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse."
In fact, it was this poem that formed the identity of a character Christmas would not have been the same without – Santa Claus. The inspiration for the jolly, round old man who leaves his home on the North Pole for a single night to deliver gifts to children around the world was St. Nicholas, a bishop in Myra, Turkey.
One of the legends involving Nicholas is how he saved three young girls whose father had suffered some financial trouble from a life of prostitution by visiting their home at night for three successive nights and throwing a ball of gold through an open window.
The connection between St. Nicholas and Santa Claus is apparent, including the derivation one's name from the other and the colors of their clothing – clerical robes are traditionally red and white.
December 25th was decided upon as the date of Christmas by church elders in 400 C.E. and was adopted by an overwhelming majority of the Christian world by the ninth century. The exception, Greek churches did not switch their observance schedule to the Gregorian calendar and continue to celebrate Christmas on January 6th.
T r a d i t i o n s
Depending on the local and family traditions, some people exchange gifts on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas morning. However, for most people, especially children, Christmas Eve is a night of anticipation for the morning ahead.
The stockings are hung up by the fireplace and filled with goodies, a fire is lit, carols are sung, and neighbors are congratulated with the coming holiday. The shopping has been done, the Christmas tree has been decorated, and the food for the next day's festivities is ready for its preparation.
This night is set aside to spend a relaxing, quiet evening with one's family and friends, perhaps reading out loud, playing with the children, and any other activities that befit this special evening and set the mood for the day of celebration to come.
The traditions of Christmas revolve around familiar symbols such as the Christmas tree, candles and other objects exuding light, and of course, Santa Claus. It is a time that families separated by location, responsibilities, and other circumstances come together to enjoy the holiday and one another's company.
The early morning ritual of exchanging gifts between family members, loved ones, and co-workers is a custom that, despite its novelty to the holiday's long history, has dramatically changed how it is viewed. Because of its commercial appeal, Christmas has ceased to be a strictly religious holiday and has brought many converts to its celebration that do not necessarily consider themselves Christians.
However, as is proven by the many nativity-themed decorations that are displayed outside homes around the world, the religious roots of the observance are not forgotten.
The use of evergreens such as the Christmas tree, the poinsettia, and the mistletoe, especially in the form of a wreath symbolic of the continuity of life, emphasize the value of maintaining one's faith and the need to look toward the future even during the winter's darkest day.
This is Funny!
According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, while both male and female reindeer grow antlers in the summer each year, male reindeer drop their antlers at the beginning of winter, usually late November to mid December. Female reindeer retain their antlers till after they give birth in the spring.
Therefore, according to every historical rendition depicting Santa's reindeer, every single one of them, from Rudolf to Blitzen........had to be a girl.
We should've known. Only women would be able to drag a fat man in a red velvet suit all around the world in one night, and not get lost!!
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