Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Facts

Below are some of the answers to the Questions that people have always asked about some of our Christmas traditions.

Why is Christmas abbreviated "Xmas"?
Because the Greek letter "x" is the first letter of the Greek word for Christ, Xristos. "Xmas" therefore means "Christ's Mass." The abbreviation has been around since at least the sixteenth century and is not, as some people have claimed, an attempt to take the "Christ" out of "Christmas" and make it a secular holiday.

Why is it a custom to kiss under the mistletoe?
The custom of kissing under the mistletoe may be related to a Scandinavian goddess. Frigga, the goddess of love in Norse mythology, is strongly associated with mistletoe, which has been used as a decoration in homes for thousands of years. Mistletoe is associated with many pagan rituals. In fact, the Christian church disliked the plant so much, thanks to its pagan associations, that it forbade its use in any form. Some English churches continued this ban as late as the 20th century! According to Charles Panati's excellent book, Extraordinary Origins of Ordinary Things, holly became a Christian substitute for mistletoe, which is why we "deck the halls" with it. The sharply pointed leaves in holly were supposed to symbolize the thorns in Christ's crown and the red berries were to symbolize his blood.

Why do we decorate trees for Xmas?
The evergreen tree, because it is perpetually green, has been used as a symbol of eternal life since the ancient Egyptians and Hebrews. The Scandinavians believed that the evergreen could even scare away the devil. Decorating an evergreen tree in honor of Xmas became popular in the Middle Ages, especially in Germany. The decorations then consisted of candles and wafers, to symbolize Christ and the Host. Martin Luther is actually said to be the first person to put candles on a tree. (The decorated wooden Xmas pyramid was also popular then!) The tree became popular in Europe and America in the 18th century and the Victorians started decorating them with candies and cakes hung with ribbon. Woolworth (a department store) began selling manufactured Xmas ornaments in 1880 and the custom became big very fast. The first electronically lighted Xmas tree appeared in 1882.

Why do we use Candy Canes?
"The Story Of the Candy Cane"

Of all the beautiful traditions of Christmas, few are so ancient in meaning and so rich in symbolism as the Candy Cane.

From the beginning of the tradition of the Christmas Tree, it was customary to decorate the tree with symbols of the newborn Christ. Candles represented the Light of the World, the Star recalled that first Christmas night, and the shepherd's crook symbolized the humble shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem who were first to receive the news, "Unto You is Born a Savior."

Christmas tree decorations in Europe, from which our tradition comes, were customarily made of food, principally cookies and candy. This symbolically expresses thanks for "Our Daily Bread" as well as providing a Christmas treat for the children. Thus, the shepherds crook becomes a candy cane.

As time went on, many ornaments took a more permanent nature but the Candy Cane retains the original use and meaning of Christmas Tree ornaments.

Candy Canes on the Christmas tree symbolize the Shepherds in the fields on that first Christmas night, shepherds who heard the angel chorus and came to worship at the crib of the newborn King. They are also sign of our thanks to God for the food he has given us all during the year, and not least of all, they are an inexpensive and delightful Christmas treat for the family.

Twelve Days of Christmas
Some of you have been sending me emails asking me "What happened to the facts on the Twelve Days Of Christmas?" Well I got an email from someone letting me know that it is an Urban Legend. Sad to say. Below is the email he sent to me a long with the link to the page.

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