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Published by Fryni Maravelaki

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Categories:Types, School Work
Published by: Fryni Maravelaki on Dec 14, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The Symbols and Traditions ofChristmasThe Date of ChristmasThe idea to celebrate Christmas on December 25 originated in the 4
century. The Catholic Church wanted to eclipse the festivities of arival pagan religion that threatened Christianity’s existence. TheRomans celebrated the birthday of their sun god, Mithras during thistime of year. Although it was not popular, or even proper, to celebratepeople’s birthdays in those times, church leaders decided that in orderto compete with the pagan celebration they would themselves order afestival in celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Although theactual season of Jesus’ birth is thought to be in the spring, the dateof December 25 was chosen as the official birthday celebration asChrist’s Mass so that it would compete head on with the rival pagancelebration.Mistletoe and HollyTwo hundred years before the birth of Christ, the Druids usedmistletoe to celebrate the coming of winter. They would gather thisevergreen plant that is parasitic upon other trees and used it todecorate their homes. They believed the plant had special healingpowers for everything from female infertility to poison ingestion.Scandinavians also thought of mistletoe as a plant of peace andharmony. They associated mistletoe with their goddess of love, Frigga.The custom of kissing under the mistletoe probably derived from thisbelief. The early church banned the use of mistletoe in Christmascelebrations because of its pagan origins. Instead, church fatherssuggested the use of holly as an appropriate substitute for Christmasgreenery.
PoinsettiaPoinsettias are native to Mexico. They were named after America’sfirst ambassador to Mexico, Joel Poinsett. He brought the plants toAmerica in 1828. The Mexicans in the eighteenth century thought theplants were symbolic of the Star of Bethlehem. Thus the Poinsettiabecame associated with the Christmas season. The actual flower ofthe poinsettia is small and yellow. But surrounding the flower arelarge, bright red leaves, often mistaken for petals.The Christmas TreeThe Christmas Tree originated in Germany in the 16
century. It wascommon for the Germanic people to decorate fir trees, both inside andout, with roses, apples, and colored paper. It is believed that MartinLuther, the Protestant reformer, was the first to light a Christmastree with candles. While coming home one dark winter’s night nearChristmas, he was struck with the beauty of the starlight shiningthrough the branches of a small fir tree outside his home. Heduplicated the starlight by using candles attached to the branches ofhis indoor Christmas tree. The Christmas tree was not widely used inBritain until the 19
century. It was brought to America by thePennsylvania Germans in the 1820’s.Christmas trees are very popular in England. Instead of cutting downtheir trees, however, the people often dig them up along with somesoil, and keep them in a large tub. After the Christmas season is over,the trees will be replanted again. Yule logs are also widely used. Alarge log is brought into the home to be burned in the fireplace.Before it is lighted, family members sit on it and wish for good luck inthe coming year.
Why do the Children in England hung up Christmas stockings?English children hang up stockings on Christmas Eve and during thenight. Father Christmas, a kindly old man, fills them with candy, nuts,and toys. Father Christmas once dropped some gold coins while comingdown the chimney. The coins would have fallen through the ash grateand been lost if they hadn’t landed in a stocking that had been hungout to dry. Since that time children have continued to hang outstockings in hopes of finding them filled with gifts.Church dressedMost of the Christmas activities in England center around churchcelebrations. Christmas caroling and Christmas plays and stories arefavorites of the holiday season. Our English child is dressed aschildren were in a very well known English story, “A Christmas Carol,”by Charles Dickens.Carol ServiceChristians go to a special carol service at their church on ChristmasEve night. There are usually two carols services. The first one is forchildren and may be a candle lit service where the congregation hold acandle each whilst they sing Christmas songs (carols) and watch aNativity performed by children. The second one is closer to midnight(called Midnight Mass), so that people can welcome Christmas Day inand rejoice in the coming of our Lord.Christmas CarolsWe have special songs which we sing during the Christmas season. Thesongs are known as carols and they are about Jesus and the time whenhe was born. They were written for a special purpose, often toaccompany performances of religious dramas dating from medievaltimes.Caroling (singing carols in the street) is one of the oldestcustoms in Great Britain, going back to the Middle Ages when beggars,seeking food, money, or drink, would wander the streets singingholiday songs. In the Middle Ages, carols were dances accompanied bysinging. It is thought that they were introduced to England fromFrance. Over the years, the word ‘carolchanged its meaning,referring only to certain kinds of songs, the word carol became knownas Christmas songs.

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