The history of Christmas traditions spans dozens of countries, cultures, and centuries. From the simple act of sending a Christmas greeting card to decorating a holiday tree with tinsel and lights, individuals around the world continue these traditions each year as they share in the joy of the holiday season. Christmas as a festival or holiday did not start until some years after Christ's birth and death. Even the actual date of Christ's birth is in question because of reference to multiple calendars over the years. Some theorists have surmised that the celebration of Christmas is related to the Jewish Festival of Lights, during which Jesus was born. Others associate it with the Roman holiday of Saturnalia, which was a celebration of the births of several Roman gods. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia online, Christmas (or "Mass of Christ") was not one of the earliest celebrations of the Catholic Church. However, in various places around the Holy Land, starting in about 200 AD, masses celebrating Christ's birth became annual events. In the fourth century, the date of December 25 was settled on by most churches as the annual celebration .These masses started in various locations around and near the Holy Land. Some of the early masses included dramatic representations of the Nativity. As early as the fourth century, hymns and carols became part of these dramatic events. It was not until 1223 that St. Francis of Assisi presented the nativity in the form of the crib or crèche that we now know. Elements of various pagan celebrations that took place around the month of January gradually worked themselves into Christmas celebrations. Among these elements were gift giving, greeting cards, and the Yule log, which was based on a practice of a landlord providing a tenant with wood on the birth of a child. Various other elements, such as the Christmas tree and visits from Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus, were based on other holidays and practices. Over time, Christmas became a major feast day with special foods, such as minced meat, goose, and hot mulled spirits, not eaten the rest of the year. Other saints' days, such as Saint Lucia's Day in Sweden, also became associated with the Christmas holidays.
The original Santa Claus was a pious and kindly monk, St. Nicholas, born in Turkey in approximately 280 AD. Throughout his life, St. Nicholas was known as a protector of children and admired for his generosity. Legend has it that he gave away vast amounts of inherited wealth to is based in historical truth. The modern image of Santa did not appear until 1823, however, when Clement Clarke Moore wrote his iconic "Twas the Night Before Christmas" poem. The "jolly" image of Moore's Santa was not the same as the more formal, spiritual image found in many European countries, but it was quickly adopted as a wholesome, heartwarming figure to represent Santa Claus. Today, the image of Santa has evolved away from the jolly elf image Moore portrayed and instead Santa is seen as a kindly grandfather figure that embodies the spirit of kindness and generosity of the Christmas season. Santa Claus has been around in one form or another since the fourth century. Santa Claus, Old St. Nick, and all of the other incarnations of Father Christmas are based on St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children and sailors.
Christmas trees are among the most popular holiday traditions practiced worldwide. Evergreen trees have always been prized in the winter because they represent the continual growth and bounty of nature, and before people began decorating trees they brought evergreen branches and boughs into their homes to string near windows, mantles, and doorways. The green branches were thought to keep away evil spirits and illness .The first decorated Christmas trees were brought into homes in the 1500s in Germany. Trees were frequently decorated with strings of popcorn, cranberries, cookies, and other edible items to demonstrate ongoing bounty. Protestant reformer Martin Luther is credited with adding the first lit candles to trees because they reminded him of the sparkling beauty of stars. Electric strings of Christmas lights replaced candles in the late 1880s as a safer, easier, and eventually more affordable alternative. The Christmas tree, which was probably based on pagan symbols, became a symbol of everlasting life and hope, especially in Europe and North America. Adorned in lights (initially candles) and smelling of the outdoors, it became an important part of the Christmas celebration. Gifts were originally hung on the tree, and they now take a place of honor under the tree. The holy leaf is also an evergreen symbol of everlasting life and is also associated with the crown of thorns Jesus wore when he was crucified.
The history of Christmas carols have roots in pagan celebrations, when dancing and singing were popular parts of mid-winter celebrations. Carols were eventually adopted as a religious expression of joy and celebration, becoming ever more elaborate. In 1223, St. Francis of Assisi introduced carols to Christmas mass, making them a staple of the holiday season. With the advent of the radio, many popular carols were composed and spread to listeners with ease, and today's carols frequently mimic cultural trends and events.
Fruitcake was originally a holiday treat in ancient Rome. This rich cake infused with nuts, dried fruit, and liqueur is hearty and can be kept without spoiling for long periods of time. This made it perfect for travelers and winter storage, as well as a treat to make ahead of time and have on hand for unexpected visitors. Today, fruitcakes come in many delicious varieties as well as more classic recipes that have the rich, savory tastes of classic cakes.
Prior to telephones, text messages, and e-mail, personal letters were the only way for distant friends and family members to communicate. Lengthy letters would often be sent for the holidays, but the first Christmas cards were not created until 1843 in England. Sir Henry Cole, swamped with holiday preparations, did not have time to compose different letters and instead commissioned renowned artist John Calcott Horsley to create a holiday scene card that could hold a brief personal message. The idea of Christmas cards caught on quickly, and today there is a wide range of spiritual, whimsical, and classic designs available. Millions of cards are mailed during the holiday season each year.
Poinsettias, with their bold red leaves and luxurious foliage, are a popular holiday flower. Using poinsettias for holiday decorations began as a Mexican Christmas tradition, where legend says that poor children would bring poinsettias to honor nativity displays when they could afford no other gift. The flowers were introduced to the United States by Joel R. Poinsett in 1828, during his service as the ambassador to Mexico.
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Don't forget the book discussion for (NOT FREE) - RISE OF THE DRAKYN (Sword of Souls) - (NOT FREE) is being held on Friday, December 7 so if you haven't read the book yet you might want to start soon I hope all volunteers are still available and will speak up if anything has changed so we can make alterations if necessary...
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