Did you know?

I found these nice-to-know Christmas related facts on the net, and thought I’ll share them with you :)

Christmas -> From the Old English ‘Cristes Mæsse’ ~ meaning the ‘mass of Christ’ ~ the story of Christmas begins with the birth of a babe in Bethlehem. It is believed that Christ was born on the 25th, although the exact month is unknown. December was likely chosen so the Catholic Church could compete with rival pagan rituals held at that time of year and because of its closeness with the winter solstice in the Northern hemisphere, a traditional time of celebration among many ancient cultures.

Christmas carols -> The most fantastic explanation of the term, “Christmas carol”, originates from England. According to this English story, a young girl named Carol got lost in the streets of London on a cold winter night. In an attempt to find her, her friends went from house to house similar to the way we do during Christmas. After this episode, the term “Christmas carol” became widespread.
The more pragmatic explanation is that the word, “carol”, comes from the Greek dance, “Choraulein”, which is accompanied by flutes. Later, the Frenchmen replaced the flutes with singing and named it, “caroller”, which means, “to dance around in a circle”.
The tradition of singing carols can be traced back to the monk, St. Francis of Assisi. He introduced the singing of carols in church ceremonies. Today, each country has its own traditions in connection with Christmas carols. In many places, people walk from house to house and sing at Xmas time; in other places, Christmas carols are sung in church.
Popular Christmas carols symbolize everything that Christmas stands for: They gather the family, bring joy, spread the word about Christmas, and make everyone feel the Christmas spirit. Try to hum the melody of “Jingle Bells”, and most people in the northern hemisphere will immediately imagine seeing snowflakes, angels, and Christmas bells.
The world’s most widely known Xmas carol is ”Silent Night”, which is sung in many languages all over most of the globe. The song originates from Austria, but enjoyed great recognition as early as the First World War, when soldiers on each side of the frontline laid down their weapons on Christmas Eve and sung the carol, “Silent Night”, across no man’s land.
Many people probably also think about modern songs like ”White
Christmas”, when they think of Christmas carols. However, there is actually a difference between a “Christmas carol” and a “Christmas song”. Christmas carols can often be sung by a choir and usually have simple and straightforward rhythms. This is rarely the case for pop and rock songs, which often have more complex compositions.

Christmas decorations -> they date all the way back to the old Christmas markets in 16th century Germany. In those days, Christmas food, such as sugar rods, honey cakes, and other Christmas candy, were particularly used as Christmas decorations. In the 18th century, many other kinds of Christmas decorations became popular. Among them were glazed paper, colored paper, and those which contain candies, nuts, cakes, raisins, and fruits. Nowadays we use all sort of decorations, like: angels, christmas balls, candles, tinsel, candy canes, pine cones, ribbons, etc.

Christmas trees -> In 16th-century Germany fir trees were decorated, both indoors and out, with apples, roses, gilded candies, and colored paper. In the Middle Ages, a popular religous play depicted the story of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden.
A fir tree hung with apples was used to symbolize the Garden of Eden — the Paradise Tree. The play ended with the prophecy of a saviour coming, and so was often performed during the Advent season.
It is held that Protestant reformer Martin Luther first adorned trees with light. While coming home one December evening, the beauty of the stars shining through the branches of a fir inspired him to recreate the effect by placing candles on the branches of a small fir tree inside his home.
The Christmas Tree was brought to England by Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert from his native Germany. The famous Illustrated News etching in 1848, featuring the Royal Family of Victoria, Albert and their children gathered around a Christmas tree in Windsor Castle, popularized the tree throughout Victorian England. Brought to America by the Pennsylvania Germans, the Christmas tree became by the late 19th century.

Christmas stockings -> According to legend, a kindly nobleman grew despondent over the death of his beloved wife and foolishly squandered his fortune. This left his three young daughters without dowries and thus facing a life of spinsterhood.
The generous St. Nicholas, hearing of the girls’ plight, set forth to help. Wishing to remain anonymous, he rode his white horse by the nobleman’s house and threw three small pouches of gold coins down the chimney where they were fortuitously captured by the stockings the young women had hung by the fireplace to dry.

Christmas gifts -> Gift giving was common during the Roman Saturnalia. In the 13th century, nuns in France started giving gifts to the poor on the eve of St. Nicholas’ Day. Gift giving was soon repressed by the medieval church.
In the beginning, people did not buy expensive Christmas gifts for each other. Gifts could be pieces of fruit or simple toys. The gifts were not wrapped and were just given to each other or hung on the tree since the Christmas tree tradition also became popular.
Gift giving in colonial America was based on class differences, the poor accosting the rich and demanding food, drink, and money. In the 1820’s, borrowing from the New York Dutch, the idea of gift giving was transformed to that of parents giving christmas gifts to their children. Moore’s poem may have been a contributing factor to the beginning of the commercialization of Christmas. Christmas shopping was encouraged to overcome the depression during the period, 1839-40.
Today, the sales due to the buying of Christmas gifts break records every year. However, some families have started to curb spending, because they think that Christmas due to the unwise spending for Christmas gifts has become too commercialized. The concern about the increasingly expensive tradition of giving Christmas gifts has existed for a long time. As early as 100 years ago, poets and social critics already began warning people that Christmas was becoming too commercialized.

Christmas cards -> A form of Christmas card began in England first when young boys practiced their writing skills by creating Christmas greetings for their parents, but it is Sir Henry Cole who is credited with creating the first real Christmas card. The first director of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, Sir Henry found himself too busy in the Christmas season of 1843 to compose individual Christmas greetings for his friends.
He commissioned artist John Calcott Horsley for the illustration. The card featured three panels, with the center panel depicting a family enjoying Christmas festivities and the card was inscribed with the message “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You.”

Holly -> In Northern Europe Christmas occurred during the middle of winter, when ghosts and demons could be heard howling in the winter winds. Boughs of holly, believed to have magical powers since they remained green through the harsh winter, were often placed over the doors of homes to drive evil away. Greenery was also brought indoors to freshen the air and brighten the mood during the long, dreary winter.
Legend also has it that holly sprang from the footsteps of Christ as he walked the earth. The pointed leaves were said to represent the crown of thorns Christ wore while on the cross and the red berries symbolized the blood he shed.

Poinsettia -> A native Mexican plant, poinsettias were named after Joel R. Poinsett, U.S. ambassador to Mexico who brought the plant to America in 1828. Poinsettias were likely used by Mexican Franciscans in their 17th century Christmas celebrations. One legend has it that a young Mexican boy, on his way to visit the village Nativity scene, realized he had no gift for the Christ child. He gathered pretty green branches from along the road and brought them to the church. Though the other children mocked him, when the leaves were laid at the manger, a beautiful star-shaped flower appeared on each branch. The bright red petals, often mistaken for flowers, are actually the upper leaves of the plant.

Mistletoe -> Mistletoe was used by Druid priests 200 years before the birth of Christ in their winter celebrations. They revered the plant since it had no roots yet remained green during the cold months of winter.
The ancient Celtics believed mistletoe to have magical healing powers and used it as an antidote for poison, infertility, and to ward of evil spirits. The plant was also seen as a symbol of peace, and it is said that among Romans, enemies who met under mistletoe would lay down their weapons and embrace.
Scandanavians associated the plant with Frigga, their goddess of love, and it may be from this that we derive the custom of kissing under the mistletoe. Those who kissed under the mistletoe had the promise of happiness and good luck in the following year.

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2 Comments to “Did you know?”

  1. some things i knew some i didn’t :) cool :) i hate history too but this is interesting:) no one teaches these stuff in schools :)

  2. :) I know, it’s a shame they don’t teach this stuff in schools, it would really help with the holiday spirit and preparations they do :)

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