• 29Декабрь

    Did You Know?

    Facts, Figures & Folklore

    about the Christian Celebration-

    of Christmas                                           

    Did you know that many of our most popular Christmas traditions today date back over 4000 years?

    Many of our Christmas traditions were celebrated centuries before the Christ child was born. The 12 days of Christmas, the bright fires, the yule log, the giving of gifts, carnivals(parades) with floats, carolers who sing while going from house to house, the holiday feasts, and the church processions can be traced back to the early Mesopotamians, Europeans and Romans.

    Did you know that the character of Santa Claus is based on two Christmas legends: Saint Nicholas and Father Christmas? Saint Nicholas was the patron saint of children, who generously gave gifts to poor and orphaned young ones. Father Christmas was the spirit of good tidings.

    Did you know that Santa Claus can also trace his roots back to a Dutch character called Sinterklaas?

    When the Dutch colonists came to America, they brought with them the legend of an austere bishop, dressed in a red costume and carrying a book inscribed with a list of all the good and naughty children. To this day in Holland, Sinterklaas delivers gifts to all the "good" children on December 5th, which is St. Nicholas' Eve. The 5th is the primary gift-giving time of the Christmas season for many Europeans.

    Did you know that Santa Claus arrived in the United States in the 18th century via the Dutch founders of New York City? The Dutch introduced America to their "Sinterklaas" festivities. Sinterklaas is the Dutch name for Saint Nicholas.

    Did you know that the Roman's celebrated a festival in mid-December that is believed to have inspired many of our Christmas traditions? Their festival was called Saturnalia which began the middle of December and ended January 1st. With cries of "Jo Saturnalia!" the celebration would include masquerades in the streets, big festive meals, visiting friends, and the exchange of good-luck gifts called Strenae. The Romans would also deck their halls with garlands of laurel and green trees lit with candles. The Early Christians wanted to keep the birthday of their Christ child a solemn and religious holiday, not one of cheer and merriment as was the pagan Saturnalia. But as Christianity spread they were alarmed by the continuing celebration of pagan customs and Saturnalia among their converts. At first the Church forbid this kind of celebration. But it was to no avail. Eventually it was decided that the celebration would be tamed and made into a celebration fit for the Christian Son of God.

    Did you know that it takes an average of seven years for a Christmas tree to reach six feet tall?

    Some trees take as long as 15 years to grow to their harvesting height; others reach it in as little as four years.

    Did you know that the tradition of indoor Christmas trees began in Germany?

    German Christians would bring an evergreen tree into their homes and decorate it with lit candles. Today, we have transitioned to the safer practice of using Christmas lights. The Christmas tree tradition spread to the rest of Europe thanks to Prince Albert, the German-born husband of Queen Victoria, who decorated the first English Christmas tree at Windsor Castle in 1841. German immigrants to the United States introduced Americans to the Christmas tree, which was initially met with much skepticism. By the late 1800s, however, the tree had become an accepted and beloved symbol of the Christmas season.

    Did you know that Rudolph and the rest of Santa's reindeer are very much a modern addition to Christmas tradition?

    The legend of Santa's reindeer began in the famous poem, "The Night Before Christmas." Written by Clement Clarke Moore in 1822, it introduced the notion of Santa's sleigh being magically pulled by eight mythical reindeer.

    Did you know that the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe dates back to the Middle Ages?

    Originally, the custom held that for each kiss under the mistletoe, one berry should be removed from the mistletoe branch. Once all the berries were removed, no more kissing was allowed! Couples avoid this prohibition today by dispensing with the berry removal tradition.

    Did you know that the tradition of sending Christmas cards began during the Victorian period?

    A British artist named John Horsely was commissioned by the British Postal Service to design the first-ever Christmas card. His illustrated card featured an inscription familiar today: "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You".

    Did you know that the Italian tradition of the Feast of Seven Fishes is a celebration of the birth of the baby Jesus?

    In his honor, many Roman Catholics do not eat meat on Christmas Eve, enjoying instead a feast of seven seafood and shellfish dishes. The number seven signifies the number of days in which G-d created the universe. The Feast of Seven Fishes tradition originated in southern Italy and is still practiced there today, as well as by many Italian American families.




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