Friday, August 17, 2007

Who’s been naughty and who’s been nice?

On the day of Christmas all over the world, whether there is snow or not, people celebrate this day with Christmas trees, tinsel, candy, pudding and stockings full of gifts. But have you ever wondered how it all started? while going through a stack of old news papers, in order to find relevant material for my assignment, i came across some information on Christmas and thought of sharing it as most of us are unaware of how it all began.

What’s in a word?
The word ‘Christmas’ was introduced in the English language around 1050 AD as the Old English expression Christes maesse denoting “festival of Christ.” Roman Catholics first celebrated Christmas, which was subsequently known as the Feast of the Nativity, as early as 336 AD. Today we use an abridged form ‘Xmas’. The X stands for the Greek letter chi, an abbreviation of Khristos (Christ), and also represents the cross on which Jesus was put to death. Christmas is based on the story of Jesus’ birth as described in the Gospel according to Matthew and the Gospel according to Luke.

Christmas or Xmas is the annual Christian holiday to celebrate and pay tribute to the birth of Jesus Christ. The followers of Protestantism and most members of the Roman Catholic Church observe Christmas on December 25 whereas many others celebrate on the eve of Christmas on December 24 as well.

The official Christmas season, which is commonly known as either the Twelve Days of Christmas or Christmastide, starts from the anniversary of the birth of Christ on December 25 to the feast of Epiphany on January 6.

Santa Claus
The myth of Santa Claus had its roots in Europe and was brought to New York by Dutch colonizers in the early 13th century. By custom, Santa Claus, from the Dutch Sinter Klaas, was portrayed as a tall, decorous and devout character on a white horse. He was known as Saint Nicholas in Germany where he was escorted by Black Peter, a pixie, who penalized defiant children.

Long before the advent of Christianity, plants and trees that remained green all year had a special meaning for people in the winter. In many countries it was believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness.

Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce. It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles.

Most 19th-century Americans found Christmas trees an oddity. The first record of one being on display was in the 1830s by the German settlers of Pennsylvania, although trees had been a tradition in many German homes much earlier. The Pennsylvania German settlements had community trees as early as 1747. But, as late as the 1840s Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols and not accepted by most Americans.

In 1846, the popular royals, Queen Victoria and her German Prince, Albert, were sketched in the Illustrated London News standing with their children around a Christmas tree. The Christmas tree had arrived.

By the 1890s Christmas ornaments were arriving from Germany and Christmas tree popularity was on the rise around the U.S. It was noted that Europeans used small trees about four feet in height, while Americans liked their Christmas trees to reach from floor to ceiling.

The early 20th century saw Americans decorating their trees mainly with homemade ornaments, while the German-American sect continued to use apples, nuts, and marzipan cookies. Popcorn joined in after being dyed bright colors and interlaced with berries and nuts. Electricity brought about Christmas lights, making it possible for Christmas trees to glow for days on end. With this, Christmas trees began to appear in town squares across the country and having a Christmas tree in the home became an American tradition.

Joy to the world
On Christmas morning children usually come down to open their presents at the tree and their stockings. Some people go to church and others meet family for a rich Christmas dinner with the compulsory roast turkey, cranberry sauce and Christmas pudding. People are often seen on the streets ringing bells to call people to offer charity, Christmas carollers knock on doors and sing for charity donations.not only is this day celebrated by Christians,
even some non Christians wish each other merry Christmas. It is a time when the spirit of goodwill, to all, reigns in our hearts.


Sidhusaaheb said...


I've always known Santa Claus to be associated with Reindeer, though, and this is the first time I've ever come to know that Santa's been using a horse, too, as transport.


Talal said...

Very informative..