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Home : About Christmas : Christmas Tradition

 


TRADITIONS OF CHRISTMAS

Christmas is a magical season, bringing families and friends together to share the much loved customs and traditions which have been around for centuries. Every country has its own way of celebrating christamas and the traditions of celebrating the event varies from place to place. However their are some basic traditons which are followed universally around the globe. So lets come together and know the basic traditions of christmas


SANTA CLAUS

Santa Claus is the most important and precious symbol for the celebration of Christmas. There is no evidence to prove whether St.Nicholas ever existed as a human or not. There are however some facts which indicates that the life story of Saint Nicholas was simply taken form those of Pagan Gods. His legends seems 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.

St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends. He loved children and threw gifts to make them happy from their windows. He also saved a sailor who fell overboard. The saint walked on water, retrieved the sailor and carried him back to the ship. He also gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick. One of the ebst story about St. Nicholas is the one in which he saves three daughters of a poverty strickn family from being sold out in prostituion. To save them, he crept in the house and thre bags full of gold coins from their wondow. And for the third daughter he threw a bag of gold down the chimney into her stocking. Its from this that the tradition of putting stockins on the eve of christmas came over. He also rewarded children who studied catechism & behaved well.

Over the course of many years, Nicholas's popularity spread and he became known as the protector of children and sailors. His kindness and reputation for generosity gave rise to claims he that he could perform miracles and devotion to him increased. St. Nicholas became the patron saint of Russia, where he was known by his red cape, flowing white beard, and bishop's mitre.

It was basically in America, with the Dutch inspiration that St.Nicholas was transformed to SantaClaus. In the early days of Dutch New York, "Sinterklass" became known among the English-speaking as "Santa Claus. 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.


MISTLETOE AND THE HOLLY

Mistletoe 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. It is also capable for growing on its own, producing its own food by photosynthesis. Its a kind of magical plant which has no roots of itslef rather it lives on the the other tree to which it attaches itself.

Mistletoe was held sacred by the Norse, the Celtic Druids and the North American Indians.The Druid priests would cut mistletoe from an oak tree with a golden sickle. The branches had to be caught before they touched the ground. They then divided the branches into many sprigs and distributed them to the people, who hung them over doorways as protection against thunder, lightning and other evils. The folklore continued over the centuries. It was believed that a sprig placed in a baby's cradle would protect the child from goblins. Giving a sprig to the first cow calving after New Year would protect the entire herd.

Mistletoe is a symbol for peace and joy. During the times of Druids, whenever enemies met under the mistletoe in the forest, they had to lay down their arms and observe a truce until the next day. From this comes the custom of hanging a ball of mistletoe from the ceiling and exchanging kisses under it as a sign of friendship and goodwill.

The exchanging of kisses between a man and a woman was adopted as a promise to marry, somewhat in the 18th century. At Christmas a young lady standing under a ball of mistletoe cannot refuse to be kissed. The kiss could mean deep romance, lasting friendship and goodwill. It was believed that if the girl remained unkissed, she cannot expect to marry the following year.

In the ancient times, it was forbidden to fight under the mistletoe. Mistletoe was considered to be a healing plant, capable of healing everything from infertility in woman to poison ingestion. Scandinavians also thought of mistletoe as a plant of peace and harmony.

The early church however banned the use of mistletoe, because of its pagan origins. The church fathers suggested the use of holly as an appropriate substitute for Christmas greenery.

Druids wore sprigs of holly in their hair when they went into the forest to watch their priests cut their sacred mistletoe. It was the sacred plant of Saturn and was used at the Roman Saturnalia festival to honour him. Romans gave one another holly wreaths and carried them about decorating images of Saturn with it. It was used as folk medicine for toothache, measles and dog bites.

To avoid persecution during the Roman pagan festival of Saturnalis, the early Christians decked their homes with Saturnalia holly. As Christian numbers increased and their customs prevailed, holly and mistletoe lost their pagan associations and soon became symbols of Christmas.


 POINSETTIAS

Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulchenima) are native to southern Mexico and Guatemala where they grow as a large shrub or small tree. The origin of Pointsettias dates from Americas first ambassador to Mexico. he was called Joel Poinsett. The Mexicans considered the plants brought to him symbolic to the star in Bethelem and thus it came to be associated with Christmas. It makes a brilliant show of bright red throughout the festive weeks of December and January.

The story of Pointsettias is derived from the story of a poor girl Pepita. She was a poor Mexican girl who had no gift to present the Christ Child at Christmas Eve Services. As Pepita walked slowly to the chapel with her cousin Pedro, her heart was filled with sadness rather than joy. Not knowing what else to do, Pepita knelt by the roadside and gathered a handful of common weeds, fashioning them into a small bouquet. Looking at the scraggly bunch of weeds, she felt more saddened and embarrassed than ever by the humbleness of her offering. She fought back a tear as she entered the small village chapel. As she approached the alter, she felt her spirit lift as she knelt to lay the bouquet at the foot of the nativity scene. Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into blooms of brilliant red, and all who saw them were certain that they had witnessed a Christmas miracle right before their eyes. From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the Flores de Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night, for they bloomed each year during the Christmas season.


 THE CHRISTMAS TREE

Christmas Tree and its decoration forms an integral part of the Christmas celebrations. The Christmas tree is an evergreen coniferous tree which is decorated with sweets and lights in the spirit of christmas. According to one legend the Christmas Tree symbolizes the Trinity and points upwards towards the God. While the light, gift and decorations on the Christmas tree mean heaven; love and charity respectively.

The tradition basically started with the Druids. They use to decorate their house and public places with evergreen branches. Soon this was adopted by Christians and made a part of Christmas celebrations. The first Christian use of the Christmas tree symbol is credited to 16th century when devout Christians also brought decorated trees into their homes.

In 1830's use of decorated christmas tree was sighted in Pennsylvania. Christmas trees were originally viewed as pagan symbols but by 1890's, Christmas ornaments were being imported from Germany and Christmas trees were in high fashion.


The decorations on the Christmas trees draw their root in traditional values. The crystal balls symbolizes the fruit of redemption, the electric light or the candles are ancient symbols that stand for the triumph of spring over the darkness of winter. The light also symbolizes the light that Jesus Christ cast upon the lives of the people. The Holy, when it flies down to earth, is believed to take the shape of a dove. The dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit, while the bell symbolizes the joys of life.

Different things were used to decorate Christmas trees. Trees were decorated with strings of popcorn, homemade cards and pictures, cotton to look like snow, candy in all shapes and sizes, and occasionally, fancy store made glass balls and hand blown glass figurines. Candles were sometimes used, but often caused devastating fires, and many different types of candle holders were devised to try to prevent tree fires. With the advent of electricity, Christmas trees began to appear in town squares across America and the traditional "lighting of the tree" quickly became the official symbols of the beginning of the holiday season.


THE CHRISTMAS STAR

In the village of Nazareth lived Joseph and Mary. Joseph was a carpenter and Mary was a young virgin who would become his wife. Mary told Joseph of a dream in which she was visited by an angel who told her she had been chosen to bear the Son of God and his name was to be Jesus.

One day the emperor sent notice that all persons were to register for a new tax. They were instructed to return to the towns of their birth. Joseph and Mary left Nazareth for Bethlehem. Mary who was with child, and close to the birth, rode on a donkey while Joseph walked beside her. They traveled for many days and only rested at night.

When they reached Bethlehem it was night. They looked for a place to rest but there were no empty rooms when they reached the inn. As they were being turned away Joseph mentioned his wife was with child and close to birth. The inn keeper took pity on them and told them of some caves in the nearby hills that shepherds would stay with their cows and sheep.

So Joseph and Mary went up into the hills and found the caves. In one cave was a stable room. Joseph cleaned it and made beds of fresh hay. He found a feeding trough which he cleaned and filled with hay to use as a crib. The next night Mary gave birth to a son and they named him Jesus, as the angel had said.

In the blue sky above the hills of Bethlehem, twinkled the stars. Very early in the morning they would sing together and would tell each other of what they had seen during the long night.


They used to watch the shepherds guarding their flocks upon the hillsides, and one bright evening star that looked down upon the earth earlier than the others, would tell stories of little children whispering their prayers at the twilight hour. One wintry night a new star came to visit the other stars. It was so radiant that its rays shone upon the gray hills and made them light as day. It had come on a wonderful errand. The shepherds saw it and were frightened at its strange brightness; but an angel came to them and said: "Do not be afraid; the star has come to bring you good, tidings of great joy, and to show you the place where a little babe is born,--a little babe whose name is Jesus, and who will give peace and joy to the whole world."


Then the shepherds heard some singing,--beautiful singing, for a great many angels had come to tell the good news; and the star grew larger and brighter, it was so glad. When the angels had gone back to Heaven, the shepherds said, "Let us go and see this child." So they left their flocks sleeping on the hillsides, and took their crooks in their hands and followed the star, which travelled on and on till it led them to the little stable in Bethlehem, when the Baby Jesus was cradled in a manger. Then the star moved on again to a country far away, where some good, wise men lived. They saw the bright light, and noticed the star moving on and on, as if it were showing them the way to go. So they, too, followed the star till it rested above the birthplace of Jesus. Then the wise men went in and gave their best gifts to the baby, and they and the shepherds knelt and thanked God for sending the little Christ Child to be the best Christmas present the great world ever had. The star watched over them, casting a peaceful light over all. At last the dawn came over the hill tops, and the star went away, far back into the blue heavens, to tell the other stars the story of our first glad Christmas day.


CANDLES

Candles are an important part of christmas celebrations. Candles are symbol of individual's life force, or the light he or she offers to the world. They represent spirituality, devotion, faith, longing, and the life devoted to a single, generally spiritual passion or aspiration. They symbolize the passing years of a human life as it slowly burns or melts away. Because of their phallic shape, candles were commonly used in marriage and fertility rites. In these rites they may represent the innocence of virgins.


CHRISTMAS BELLS

Christmas without the bells is incomplete. Christmas bells form an integral part of christmas traditions. Bells represent Joy and Sorrow. They are a symbol of creativity and harmony; the creating Word, and the music of the spheres. [Gen 1; John 1:1-4] High in the towers, suspended between heaven and earth, bells and especially their clappers, represent communication and suspension between heaven and earth, or humans and God. Even today, on Christmas Eve, these bells may be heard ringing at midnight. In other European towns, the ringing of bells from churches that were swallowed up by earthquakes during worship services may be heard by putting one's ear to the ground on Christmas Eve.


CANDYCANE

Candy Cane is yet another important symbol of christmas traditions. The white color of the candy cane symbolizes the Virgin Birth and the sinless nature of Jesus. The hardness of the candy symbolizes the solid rock, the foundation of churches and the firmness of the promises made by God. The candies are made in a "J" shape to represent the name of Jesus and the shape of the staff of the "Good Shepherd". And the three red stripes on the candy represents the Trinity and the blood shed by Christ to let us have the promise of the eternal life.

The most important legend that is associated with christmas is this that during the 18th century, any public display of christianity was forbidden. Neither bible, nor crosses were allowed and even the children were opressed. An old man, candy maker by profession was very depressed with this scenario. He loved the Lord with all of his heart and couldn't stand to not share that love with the world. He was specially depressed during the christmas times, when the children were not allowed to practise the christmas traditions. He prayed to God, so that he finds a way out to make Christmas gifts for the children which would teach them the story of Christ. The answer he got was the "candy cane". The candy cane was in the shape of a shepherd"s staff to show them Jesus is our Shepherd and we are His flock. A sheep follows his own shepherd, knows his voice, and trusts him and knows that he is totally safe with him. The sheep will follow no other shepherd but their own. This is how we are to be with Jesus if we truly follow Him.

Upside down the candy cane was a "J", the first letter of Jesus' name. Upside down the candy cane was a "J", the first letter of Jesus' name. It was made of hard candy to remind us that Christ is the rock of our salvation. The wide red stripes on the candy cane were to represent the blood He shed on the cross for each one of us so that we can have eternal life through Him. He redeems us and cleanses us with His shed blood - the only thing that can wash away our sin. The white stripes on a candy cane represented the virgin birth, sinless life and purity of our Lord. He is the only human being who ever lived on this earth who never committed a single sin. Even though He was tempted just as we are, He never sinned. The three narrow red stripes on candy canes symbolized that by His stripes, or wounds, we are healed and the Trinity - the Father, Son (Jesus) and Holy Spirit. Before the crucifixion Jesus was beaten; the crown of thorns was placed on His head; His back was raw from the whip. We are healed by those wounds. He bore our sorrows and by His stripes we are healed. The flavoring in the candy cane was peppermint, which is similar to hyssop. Hyssop is of the mint family and was used in Old Testament times for purification and sacrifice just as Jesus sacrificed His life for ours.


The old candy maker told them that when we break our candy cane it reminds us that Jesus' body was broken for us. When we have communion it is a reminder of what He did for us. If we share our candy cane and give some to someone else in love because we want to, it represents that same love of Jesus because He is to be shared with one another in love. God gave Himself to us when He sent Jesus. He loved us so much He wants us to spend eternal life with Him... which we can do if we accept Jesus in our hearts as Savior and Lord.
 


 
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