Merry Christmas!

Ho, Ho, Ho!

This blog is full of good stuff on the Joy of Christmas: Facts, Fun and Fantasy, for all those who love and can't get enough of Christmas!

There's lots here, so check the listing in the Blog Archive for the following:

- Traditions
- Story of Christ's Birth
- History of Santa
- World customs
- Scriptures
- Stories
- Prose
- Carols
- Meanings, symbols, origins
- Holiday greetings worldwide
- Facts and trivia
- Quotes
- Movie and TV clips
- Much more!

More will also be added. Let me know if there's something that should be here. Comments are appreciated!

To test your Christmas knowledge, see the trivia quiz at the bottom of this page!



The True Story of Rudolph

A man named Bob May, depressed and brokenhearted, stared out his drafty apartment window into the chilling December night. His 4-year-old daughter Barbara sat on his lap quietly sobbing. Bob's wife, Evelyn, was dying of cancer.

Little Barbara couldn't understand why her mommy could never come home. Barbara looked up into her dad's eyes and asked, "Why isn't Mommy just like everybody else's Mommy?"

Bob's jaw tightened and his eyes welled with tears. Her question brought waves of grief, but also of anger. It had been the story of Bob's life. Life always had to be different for Bob. Small when he was a kid, Bob was often bullied by other boys. He was too little at the time to compete in sports. He was often called names he'd rather not remember.

From childhood, Bob was different and never seemed to fit in. Bob did complete college, married his loving wife and was grateful to get his job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression.

Then he was blessed with his little girl. But it was all short-lived. Evelyn's bout with cancer stripped them of all their savings and now Bob and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the Chicago slums.

Evelyn died just days before Christmas in 1938. Bob struggled to give hope to his child, for whom he couldn't even afford to buy a Christmas gift. But if he couldn't buy a gift, he was determined to make one - a storybook!

Bob had created an animal character in his own mind and told the animal's story to little Barbara to give her comfort and hope. Again and again Bob told the story, embellishing it more with each telling.

Who was the character? What was the story all about? The story Bob May created was his own autobiography in fable form.

The character he created was a misfit outcast like he was. The name of the character? A little reindeer named Rudolph, with a big shiny nose.

Bob finished the book just in time to give it to his little girl on Christmas Day.

But the story doesn't end there.

The general manager of Montgomery Ward caught wind of the little storybook and offered Bob May a nominal fee to purchase the rights to print the book.

Wards went on to print, ³Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer² and distribute it to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores. By 1946 Wards had printed and distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph.

That same year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Wards to print an updated version of the book. In an unprecedented gesture of kindness, the CEO of Wards returned all rights back to Bob May.

The book became a best seller. Many toy and marketing deals followed and Bob May, now remarried with a growing family, became wealthy from the story he created to comfort his grieving daughter. But the story doesn't end there either.

Bob's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song adaptation to Rudolph. Though the song was turned down by such popular vocalists as Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore , it was recorded by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry.

"Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was released in 1949 and became a phenomenal success, selling more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception  of "White Christmas."

The gift of love that Bob May created for his daughter so long ago kept on returning back to bless him again and again. And Bob May learned the lesson, just like his dear friend Rudolph, that being different isn't so bad. In fact, being different can be a blessing.


Our Christmas Eve Traditions


Printed in the Daily Herald
December 24, 2011

As many people do, our family has strong traditions when we gather on Christmas Eve, including a nice dinner, reading the Christmas story from the Bible and opening one gift. But we also have two other activities that have long been an important part of our celebration on the night before Christmas.
Following dinner, our family gathering, which includes as many extended family members as can come, begins with the procession of St. Lucia (Sankta Lucia), following the Swedish tradition of the queen of light and her attendants (our children). They enter the darkened room holding their lit candles. Usually it is the oldest daughter who leads the procession, wearing a crown of candles. While entering, they sing the Sankta Lucia song in Swedish, and then each child takes a turn leading those gathered in singing a Christmas carol of his or her choice. We are reminded that the candlelight represents the light of the Lord coming to the world.
This ceremony sets the tone for reading from the scriptures about the Savior’s birth. We all take turns reading the various passages that tell of that great event we are celebrating.
Then comes a family favorite: the reading (in readers-theater style) of “Christmas in the Coop,” a fun and hilarious Christmas story set in a chicken coop. It was written nearly 40 years ago by my now-deceased brother Stan. The stars of the story are the barnyard animals that our family had while we were growing up in Colorado.
Led by Henrietta Peckley, the Grande Madame of the Hen and Rooster Society, the animals prepare for and celebrate Christmas Eve in their idea of the human fashion. Characters include a gaggle of chickens, Bradley Bull the Third, the rabbits Mr. and Mrs. Brown, and Chips the dumb dog. We have a blast acting out the characterizations — everyone gets involved. The story ends with the Humans (our family) peering into the barnyard coop on Christmas morning, watching the animals waking to their Christmas morning surprises. Mrs. Human says, “I hope they like our gifts.”
Reading “Christmas in the Coop” has become a great way to include and remember those who have left us — my brother and more recently my mother, who for years read as narrator and the role of Mrs. Human in the story.
I can’t imagine a Christmas Eve without the candles and the chickens.
— Ken R. Young, 52, Cedar Hills

Top 20 ASCAP Holiday Song Classics of 2015

  1. “Sleigh Ride” (Leroy Anderson / Mitchell Parish)
  2. “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” (Meredith Willson)
  3. “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” (Fred Coots / Haven Gillespie)
  4. “Winter Wonderland” (Felix Bernard / Richard B. Smith)
  5. “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” (Sammy Cahn / Jule Styne)
  6. “Jingle Bell Rock” (Joseph Carleton Beal / James Ross Boothe)
  7. “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” (Johnny Marks)
  8. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” (Johnny Marks)
  9. “Do You Hear What I Hear” (Gloria Shayne Baker (SACEM) / Noel Regney(SACEM)
  10. “Frosty the Snowman” (Steve Nelson / Walter E. Rollins)
  11. “The Christmas Song” (Mel Tormé / Robert Wells)
  12. “Last Christmas” (George Michael)
  13. “All I Want for Christmas Is You” (Walter Afanasieff / Mariah Carey)
  14. “White Christmas” (Irving Berlin)
  15. “Little Drummer Boy” (Katherine Davis / Henry Onorati / Harry Simeone)
  16. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (Ralph Blane / Hugh Martin)
  17. “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” (Johnny Marks)
  18. “Carol of the Bells” (Mykola Leontovych / Peter Wilhousky)
  19. “Home for the Holidays” (Robert Allen / Al Stillman)
  20. “Feliz Navidad” (José Feliciano)

Elf Story

by Carma Wadley
Deseret News, 12/22/02

Any child can tell you how it is: Santa Claus has a huge workshop at the North Pole, where he spends the year supervising a large crew of toy-making elves.

But few adults can tell you exactly how elves came to be part of the Christmas story.

We can trace the evolution of Santa from the good bishop Nicholas in Asia Minor, who spent his life doing such helpful deeds that he earned sainthood, with a special calling to protect sailors, unmarried women and children.

We know that when settlers came to the New World, they brought their own traditions - including that of St. Nicholas, Kris Kringle or Sinterklass - with them.

But when Clement Clark Moore wrote his now-famous poem in 1822 about  "A Visit From St. Nick," he characterized Santa himself as a "jolly old elf" small enough to bound down chimneys. Since then, Santa has not only gotten bigger himself, but he has acquired a magical bunch of elfin helpers. And for that, it seems, we can thank not only folklore but advertising.

Like many parts of the Christmas story, the elves have roots in pagan customs that were incorporated into the celebration. The gnome-like creatures are a part of Scandinavian lore, where they served as mostly benevolent helpers.

In his book "Christmas Treevia," D. Peter Harrington notes: "In Norway, Christmas elves were called "Julenisse." They are legendary creatures who are given a bowl of rommegrot on Christmas Eve, They are thought to live in the barn and help the entire household throughout the year. It is thought that this is the beginning of the myth that Santa Claus has elves to help him make toys."

Still, it took awhile for them to make an appearance in the Santa legend as it developed in America. We can thank Washington Irving (of "Rip Van Winkle" fame) for getting it started. In his "History of New York," published in 1809, Irving has St. Nick flying over snowy New York on St. Nicholas Day, dropping gifts down chimneys. Moore picked up on that idea, exchanging the wagon for a reindeer-drawn sleigh.

Our image of this Santa was solidified some 40 years later, when political cartoonist Thomas Nast illustrated Moore's poem with drawings of the "chubby and plump" figure, giving him the furred red cap, black belt and jovial expression we know and love.

As cartoonist for the influential Harper's Weekly for 22 years, Nast also drew a Santa for each Christmas issue of the magazine, which "he claimed was a welcome relied from the relentless pressure of political cartooning," Cynthia Hart, John Grossman and Priscilla Dunhill say in their book "Joy to the World: A Victorian Christmas."

In some of his drawings, Nast slipped in a few little "brownies" as Santa's helpers.

In December 1882, Harper's Monthly published a story of a kingdom of dwarfs that lived at the North Pole — and claimed that their shenanigans in the kitchen were responsible for the northern lights. Stories like this may have added to the notion that Santa lived in that arctic region. By the 1890s, he seems to be firmly entrenched there.

Katharine Lee Bates (of "America The Beautiful" renown) brought Mrs. Claus into the picture with a storybook published in 1899 called "Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride." (In those days, "goody" was a common contraction for "goodwife.")

In the mid-1940s, George Hinke, an illustrator for the Ideals Publishing Co., added to our image of both Santa and his elves. His book "Jolly Old Santa Claus" features a variety of scenes from the North Pole and showed what he called "brownies" feeding reindeer, helping with toys, even having a pillow fight.

"He did a marvelous job of creating this whole wonderful world," says Patricia Pingry, publisher of Ideals. The magazine began publication in 1944, and Hinke joined the staff in 1945. "He was German, so a lot of his paintings were a combination of German traditions and new customs he found in America. He was one of the first to paint in color."

"Jolly Old Santa Claus" has been re-released several times by Ideals, which is now owned by Guideposts. "In 1996, a new version came out where we took out the smoking. We can't have brownies doing that these days," says Pingry.

Illustrator Haddon Sundblom is another contributor to our current popular image of both Santa and his elves. From the early 1930s to the mid-1960s, Sundblom did a yearly Santa advertisement for the Coca-Cola Co. and sometimes incorporated elves in the drawings.

"The full-page ads were reproduced on the back covers of two national magazines," Kathleen Paton says in her book "Santa." "Sundblom's famous image of Santa picked up where Thomas Nast's left off, firmly establishing the definitive 20th-century Santa."

See also: Santa's Elves
Elias Elf Finds His Specialty


Twas the Night Before Christmas - Hawaiian Pidgin Style

Was da night bafo' Christmas
And all ova' da place
Not even the geckos 
was showin' their face.

Da stocking was hangin' on top da TV
('Cause no mo' fireplace in Hawai'i)
Da kids stay all crashed, my old man too.
They leave all the work you you-know-who.

So me, I stay pickin' up all their toys,
When - boom!- outside get only big noise!
I run to da window, I open 'em up
I stick out my head and I yell "Eh! Whassup?"

And then, I no can ba-lieve what I seen!
Was so unreal, you know what I mean?
This fat haole guy get his reindeer in my yard!
And reindeers not housebroken, you know, as' why hard! 

But nemmind, this Christmas, so I cut 'em some slack,   (never mind)
Plus, had uku pile presents pokin' ooutta his sack!   (great big)
So I wait till he pau tie up his reindeer,   (done)
Then I yell out da window, "Huui! Brah, ova hea!   (Hey you)

An' I tell 'em first thing, when I open da door,
"Eh, hemo your shoes! You going dirty my floor!"   (take off)
He take off his boots, he tell, "You know who I am?"
I go, "Ho! From the smell, you must be Mr. Toe Jam!"

He make mempachi eyes and he go, "Ho, ho, ho!"  (dazed look)
By now, I stay thinking this guy kinda slow!
He look like my Tutu, but little less weight,      (grandma)
And his beard stay so white, mo' white than shark bait!

He stay all in red, specially his nose,
And get reindeer spit on top his nice clothes!
But him, he no care; he just smile at me,
And he start fo' put presents unda-neath da tree.

I tell 'em, "Eh, brah, no need make li'dat   (like that)
And watch where you step! You going ma-ke da cat!"   (kill)
Then, out from his bag, he pull one brand new computah,
Choke video games, and one motorized scootah!    (alot)

He try for fill up da Christmas socks too,
But had so much pukas, all da stuff went fall troo.   (holes)
When he pau, I tell 'em, "Eh Santa, try wait!          (done)
I get plenty leftovahs, I go make you one plate!"

But he nevah like hang, he had so much fo' do;
Gotta make all them small kids' wishes come true.
So I wave 'em goodbye, and I flash 'em da shaka,
And I tell 'em, "Mele Kalikimaka!"

When he hear that, he stop and I telling you true,
He go, "Garans ball-barans! Merry Christmas to you!" (guaranteed)

The History of Christmas by Robin DuMolin

Ancient Holy Days
In ancient cultures farming not only provided food but also a secure way of life. Communities could be formed, no longer was it necessary to lead a nomadic life. It is no wonder that feasts and celebrations sprang up observing and honoring seasons.

At least 5,000 years ago Egyptians began to observe the star Sirius (Sothis). Its first appearance on the horizon each year coincided with the rising of the Nile. The rising of the Nile was necessary to plant the crops. Sirius was proclaimed to be "Creator of all green growing things." In counting the days between the star's appearance, the ancient priests realized the year had 365 days. The star's reappearance in mid-summer was the first day of the year. Before this, Egyptians went by a lunar calendar with the new moon appearing every 29-30 days. A reconciliation was made, dividing the year into 12 months of 30 days each. Then they added the extra 5 days to the end of the year. These days that belonged to no month were for awaiting Sirius, so it became a festival time.

On New Years Eve temples were rededicated. On New Years Day people ate, drank and wore their finest clothes. Small gifts were exchanged between friends. New Years night there were torch light processions. When people got tired the festival was over.

Ancient Babylonians had a festival called Sacaea, which Persians also celebrated. During this time masters and slaves exchanged places. In each household one slave was picked to be the master. In the palace, a mock king rules in place of the true king.

Around 2,000 BC, Greeks were settling into the Balkan peninsula. They learned to grow grains, grapes and olives here. They learned about the god of harvest, Cronus. These ancient Greeks adopted other culture's gods and goddesses. The name Cronus was similar to the Greek word chronos wich means time. So the harvest god and the god of time became one, Father Time. His festival, the Kronia, was celebrated in mid-summer after the wheat was harvested. The Kronia took on customs of the Sacaea.

Around 1,000 BC, a wandereing tribe called Latins settled into the Italian peninsula. Rome grew and expanded. Early Romans were a stern people. Saturn was their god of agriculture. His festival, Saturnalia, was on December 17th. Saturn became identified with Cronus, and Saturnalia began to resemble Kronia. During Saturnalia slaves and masters exchanged places. Saturnalia went from 1 to 3 to 7 days of celebration. Only the first day was religious, the other days were party days. Gifts were exchanged. As Saturnalia became longer it came closer to another Roman holiday, the Kalends, or New Year.

New Year changed from March 1 to January 1. The people believed in omens and looked for them during these holidays. Gifts were exchanged to express good wishes. Early gifts were living things, green branches and plants. The branches were called strenae. Strenia was their goddess of health As Roman customs went north, other plants were used such as ivy, rosemary, holly and firs; these branches evolved into garlands and wreaths. Gifts expanded to include sweet things like dates, honey, apples etc. to symbolize a sweet New Year. Nuts were also popular as a food and toy, boys used them as marbles. Finally strenae became money, symbolizing good luck in the New Year. Any coin that had the face of Janus (January) was especially prized. Besides gifts, feasting was also believed to insure a wealthy / lucky New Year. This celebration went Saturnalia into the Kalends. Children paraded through the streets, knocking on doors, and offered coins to each home, expecting double in return. Most homeowners joined in this custom because they believed this exchange would increase the fortunes of both parties.

What was lacking in these festivals was a spiritual overview. As the Roman empire expanded certain Eastern cults became popular. The most notable of them was the religion of Mithra, the sun god. He was an ancient Persian god symbolizing the fighter of battles. Originally he helped the god of goodness and light against darkness. Mithraism was a man's religion. Military men identified with the wariior god, who protected the world. In 247 AD, the emperor proclaimed a new holiday on December 25. It was celebrated as the birthday of the unconquered sun, but it was also the date of the winter solstice on their calendar. Aurelian was a former army officer and Mithraism convert. He came from the Danube area where the sun was worshiped. Now that he ruled the empire, he was looking for a way to unite all the different religious cults.

The Rising of the Son
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. - Luke 2:1-20

...Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. - Matthew 2:7-12

What did these surroundings look like 2,000 years ago? Most likely the stable Joseph and Mary resided in was a cave. It was not unusual for people back then to use caves as a dwelling. Joseph had a few days probably to fix up this cave. The swaddling cloth Jesus was wrapped in was probably similar to a receiving blanket. The manger was a feeding trough probably made out of clay and placed on a wooden support.

During these times shepherds were not highly regarded and were poorly paid. Prejudice against them went so far that they were not allowed to give testimony in a trial. Ironically, they were the first to hear about Christ's birth. How did the people of Bethlehem react to the news of the Messiah being born there? Probably with mixed feelings of hope an cynicism. Other young men claimed the same thing. The cave where Christ was born is now called a Grotto. During the Roman persecutions of early Christians, Emperor Hadrian ordered a sacred grove to the god Adonis planted around this site. This only heightened the fame of the Grotto.

Who were the wise men who came to visit the Christ child? Matthew refers to them as Magi. Originally, Magi were a caste (priestly). They were known as astrologers, priests, learned men and counselors to kings. They were probably from Arabia. Matthew never said there were three or that they were kings, or mentioned their names. All that came later in legends.

What was the star the Magi recognized and followed? Most people in biblical times referred to all objects in the sky as stars. It couldn't have been a comet they saw. Comets were omens of upcoming disasters. The most likely explanation is a conjunction of several planets. Jupiter and Saturn were in conjunction on May 27, 7 BC, and again on October 5 and December 1 of that year. The Magi believed the planets to be gods. Saturn was the protector of the Jews. Jupiter was the king of the gods. It was very unusual for a conjunction of the planets to happen three times in a year. Then in February 6 BC, Mars joined in this conjunction. All planets were in the constellation of Pisces, believed by astrologers to be the House of the Hebrews. To the Magi, an event like this would be incredible and have easily hastened them on their journey.

What was the atmosphere like in Jerusalem at this time? Tense! Herod the ruler had already ordered the murders of his wife, two sons, and a lot of in-laws, and hundreds of other people who had angered him. When the Magi asked of people "Where is he who has been born King of the Jews?", the people were probably startled and scared. We know when Herod heard the rumors he sent for his scribes and chief priests to locate Christ, but not with any good intentions.

Early Christians, The Beginning of Christmas
Early Christians did not celebrate the pagan festivals, or even the birth of Christ, believing that the celebration of birthdays was worldly. Christians always lived with the threat of persecution, many were executed for not celebrating various pagan rituals. But as Christianity spread across the now expanded Roman empire, the taboo against holidays waned. Epiphany was celebrated before Christmas was. In Greece and Egypt it was originally a pagan festival associated with river gods. Christians replaced the pagan festival with the Feast of the Epiphany. This celebrated Christ's baptism, his first miracle and the coming of the Magi. In 567 a council of bishops in France proclaimed the days between Christmas (December 25) and the Epiphany (January 6) to be a sacred season. The 12 days of Christmas officially began. December 26 was the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr and December 28 was to honor the Holy Innocents, the children of Bethlehem murdered by Herod in search of the Christ child.

The earliest Christian custom associated with Christmas was the midnight mass. In the 5th century the Roman Pope carried out midnight mass at the Church of Mary Major. The feasting, the gift giving and good times of Saturnalia and the Kalends persisted and gradually blended with the Christian celebration. Pagan and Christian ideas coexisted for generations and Christmas was enhanced by this. The custom of the wassail bowl is Anglo Saxon. Waesheil - "Be Well" was first a toast between friends. In medieval England the bowl was brought out at Christmas, New Years and the Epiphany. The poor would go from door to door with a cup and beg in rhyme for some wassail. Wassailing then came to mean caroling.

The custom of the Yule Log was originally a pagan ritual and it was celebrated throughout Europe. A great tree was cut on Christmas Eve. It had to be large enough to burn through the twelve days of Christmas. When placed on the hearth it had to be lit with a scrap of wood from the previous year's Yule Log. The scraps that remained were stored and believed to protect the house from various illnesses and evils. The Yule Log ritual stems from the tree worship that was practiced by earlier pagans. There are even hints that originally it evolved from human sacrifices. The Yule Log has also been considered the counterpoint of the Midsummer bonfires.

The Holiday and Its Continuing Evolution
By the early Middle Ages Christmas was a solemn and joyous, sacred and festive day. Kings favored it as a day for coronations. William the Conqueror in 1066 chose it for his coronation. as King of England. Eventually, customs early Christians had rejected were eventually blessed and accepted in the Christian celebration. They could be easily accepted for Christ the Light of the World. Mumming or guising (from disguising) was very popular in England and France. Its origin is from Saturnalia. Merrymakers disguised in all kinds of costumes took to the streets. Animal masks were popular and so were men dressing up in women's clothes. Singing, dancing and begging were all part of mumming. Later on in England crude plays were performed by mummers. In almost every play two antagonists fought to the death, with the hero being revived. The resemblance to the ancient idea of an agricultural god who dies at the closing of the year only to come alive again in the spring is obvious.

In grand houses, and the King's court and early colleges a Lord of Misrule directed the holiday festivities. He was the evolution of the King of Saturnalia, the one who'w every command must be obeyed. But the King of Misrule came to arrange pageants and entertainments of all sorts throughout the twelve days.

On December 28, Holy Innocents Day, a boy bishop was elected. It became the official feast day for students and choir boys. He dressed in robes, sang Vespers, and quizzes other students on catechism. That custom lasted until the Reformation in the sixteenth century.

In the thirteenth century, a young Italian nobleman who founded the Franciscans, a religious order dedicated to serving the poor, was troubled by the Christian aspect of the holiday to be pushed aside by the pagan customs. This Francis of Assisi wanted to inspire in others the same devotion he had towards Jesus' birth. Two weeks before Christmas he told a friend, "If you desire that we should celebrate this year's Christmas at Greccio, go quickly and prepare what I tell you; for I want to enact the memory of the infant who was born at Bethlehem, and how he was deprived of all the comforts babies enjoy; how he was bedded in the manger on hay, between an ass and an ox. For once I want to see all this with my own eyes."

"The men and women of the neighborhood, as best they could, prepared candles and torches to brighten the night. Finally, the Saint of God arrived, found everything prepared, saw it and rejoiced. The crib was made ready, hay was brought, the ox and ass were led to the spot... Greccio became a new Bethlehem. The night was made radiant like the day, filling man and animals with joy. The crowds drew near and rejoiced in the novelty of the celebration. Their voices resounded from the woods, and the rocky sliff echoed the jubilant outburst. As they sang in praise of God the whole night rang with exultation."

Apparently the ox and ass were added because of this passage in Isaiah 1:3, "The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib, but Israel hath not known me and my people hath not understood." The recreation of the manger scene in Bethlehem inspired so many others. Live versions happened first, then it evolved into miniature figures being used. The custom spread from country to country.

The renewed spirit  of devotion changed Christmas in another way. Latin hymns were customarily sung in honor of the Nativity, but they had little emotional appeal. The early Franciscans wanted to humanize Christianity with a tenderness and warmth. Jacopone da Todi was the first to write new songs. He joined the Franciscans and become a poet. He described the Christ Child as "our sweet little brother." Little angles sang reverent, timid, and shy round the little Baby Prince." The common people loved his songs.

The Origin and Tradition of Christmas Decorations
How did the Christmas tree come about? Pagan Germans were tree worshipping people. Like the old Romans they prized evergreen trees as a sign of life in winter time. Branches were brought inside. Religious dramas were performed which  taught people who could not read re-enactments of the Bible. In Germany, Paradise plays were usually performed. These plays depicted the creation of humans, Adam and Eve and their outcast from the Garden. It ended with the promise of the coming Savior. These plays required an apple tree. In places where fruit branches were bare in winter, an evergreen was used that was hung with apples. This tree was initiated into some homes and called the Tree of Life, with figures of the serpent and Adam and Eve underneath it. And something that had a huge influence in birthing our modern Christmas tree, was the Christmas pyramid. It was made of a wooden frame with several levels of shelves. It was decorated with candles, evergreen branches and pretty decorations. Later in the sixteenth century these traditions blended and the first decorated Christmas trees appeared in Germany.

Christmas trees were not fully accepted at first. In the 1640s a professor in Germany said, "Among other trifles which are set up during Christmas time instead of God's word is the Christmas tree...Far better were it to point the children to the spiritual cedar-tree, Jesus Christ." In 1647, the Puritan Parliament in England banned Christmas! The laws were not obeyed, riots broke out. When the Royalists came back into power in 1660 during this Restoration period , the celebration of Christmas was reinstated. The Pilgrims of America didn't celebrate Christmas. Their first Christmas was just another work day. In 1659, the General Court of Massachusetts forbade, at the penalty of five schillings per offense, the observation of any such days as Christmas or the like, either by the forbearing of labor, feasting, or any such way. These laws were repealed, but as late as the 1800s the prejudice against Christmas continued.

As Germans lived abroad they brought their Christmas tree customs with them. By mid-nineteenth century it was a familiar sight in Russia and Scandinavian countries. During Queen Victoria's reign is when more of the English populace came to accept the tradition and copy it. Albert, her husband, was German and he longed for a Christmas tree, like he remembered it from childhood.

In 1850, Charles Dickens gave a description of a Christmas tree to his readers: "I have been looking, this evening, at a merry company of children assembled round that pretty German toy, a Christmas tree. The tree was planted in the middle of the the great round table, and towered high above their heads. It was brilliantly lighted by a multitude of little tapers; and everywhere sparkled and glittered with bright objects. There were rosy-cheeked dolls hiding behind green leaves; And there were real watches... dangling from innumerable twigs; there were perched among the boughs, French polished tables and chairs, bedsteads... and various other articles of domestic furniture (wonderfully made of tin) as if in preparation for some fairy housekeeping... This motley collection of odd objects clustering on the tree like magic fruit, and flashing back the bright looks directed towards it from every side - some of the diamond eyes admiring were hardly on a level with the table, and a few were languishing in timed wonder on the bosoms of pretty mothers, aunts and nurses - made lively realization of the fancies of childhood; and set me thinking how all the trees that grow and all the things that come into existence on the earth, have their wild adornments at that well remembered time."

Merry Christmas.

Reference: "Merry Christmas, A History of the Holiday" by Patricia Bunning Stevens


Should I Celebrate Christmas?

Around the first of November you can see billboards which tell us to "Put Christ back into Christmas." People everywhere claim Christmas is too commercialized and say that we are overlooking the real meaning of Christmas. Some preachers will ask, "What are you going to give Christ on His birthday?" Most churches will organize Christmas plays, cantatas, and programs.

Since Christmas is recognized by most people as a religious Holy Day, it would be good for us to study its meaning. Considering Christmas has the word Christ in it, it should have some connection with the Lord. If there is a connection with the Lord, we should be able to turn to the New Testament and read of this observance. However, upon a careful examination, we fail to find a single reference to this day in the word of God.

When did men first start observing this special day?
To answer this question, we have to go outside the New Testament. Historians tell us it was nearly three centuries after the death of Christ before a day was set aside for a special observance for His birth. "Christmas was for the first time celebrated in Rome in 354, in Constantinople in 379, and in Antioch in 388." (Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, Norval Geldenhuys, p. 102). A well known preacher during this time mentioned the late origin of Christmas. "Chrysostom, in a Christmas sermon, A.D. 386, says, 'It is not ten years since this day was clearly known to us, '" (Unger Bible Dictionary, p. 196). "Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the church, and before the fifth century there was no general consensus of opinion as to when it should come in the calendar, whether January 6th, March 25th, or December 25th." (Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 5, p. 641).

When was Jesus born?
It comes as a shock to many individuals that the Bible does not tell us when Christ was born; but we are reasonably certain He was not born in December.

Nearly everyone remembers reading about the appearance of an angel to the shepherds. In Luke 2:8 we read, "Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night." This rules out the birth of Christ as a winter event. "According to this statement, Jesus cannot have been born in December, in the middle of the rainy season, as has been since the fourth century supposed , According to the Rabbins, the driving forth of the flocks took place in March, the bringing in of them in November, " (Critical and Exegetical Handbook To The Gospels of Mark and Luke, H.A.W. Meyer, p. 273).

Adam Clarke makes this observation: "It was a custom among the Jews to send out their sheep to the deserts, about the Passover, and bring them home at the commencement of the first rain; during the time they were out, the shepherds watched them night and day. As the Passover occurred in the spring, and the first rain began early in the month of Marchesvan, which answers to our part of October and November, we find that the sheep were kept out in the open county during the whole of the summer. And as these shepherds had not yet brought home their flocks, it is a presumptive argument that October had not yet commenced, and that, consequently, our Lord was not born on the twenty-fifth of December, when no flocks were out in the fields." (Adam Clarke's Commentary, p. 857).

What about the three wise men?
In every city across America you can see the famous "nativity scene" with the shepherds, Mary and Joseph, baby Jesus and the "three wise men." I do not know how many wise men there were, but I am certain they were never at the manger! Matthew tells us when they found Jesus they went "into the house" (Matthew 2:1-11). No mention is made of the manger. "They came to Jerusalem after Jesus had been presented in the temple, and taken back to Bethlehem, and, therefore, when the infant Jesus was more then forty days old. They must have come at least forty days before the death of Herod, for he spent the last forty days of his life at Jericho and the baths of Callirrhoe; the wise men found him still at Jerusalem. Jesus must, therefore, have been at least eighty days old when Herod died." (The Fourfold Gospel, J.W. McGarvey, pp. 42,43).

Who decided to make December 25 the birthday of Christ?
This credit goes to the Roman Catholic Church. They explain it like this: "Numerous theories have been put forward through the last 2,000 years to explain Dec. 25 as Christmas Day. The most likely one, however, the one most generally accepted by scholars now, is that the birth of Christ was assigned to the date of the winter solstice. This date is Dec. 21 in our calendar, but was Dec. 25 in the Julian calendar which predated our own , The solstice, when days begin to lengthen in the northern hemisphere, was referred to by pagans as the 'Birthday of the Unconquered Sun'. During the third century, the Emperor Aurelian proclaimed Dec. 25 as a special day dedicated to the sun-god, whose cult was very strong in Rome at that time. Even before this time, Christian writers already had begun to refer to Jesus as the Sun of Justice. It seemed quite logical, therefore, that as Christianity begun to dominate the religious scene in the Roman Empire, the date of the 'new-born sun' should be chosen as the birthdate of Christ. Apparently, it bothers some people that the date for Christmas has its roots in a pagan feast. Be that as it may, it's the best explanation we have for the choice of Dec. 25 to celebrate the birth of Jesus." (The New Question Box, p. 28-29).
This December observance originated with pagans as a feast day to their sun-god, Mithra. It was changed into a "Christian holy day" by the Roman Catholic Church.

Don't you think we need to observe the birth of Christ?

People often ask this question, but I usually ask this in return, "Why should we?" 2 Peter 1:3 tells us that God has given us "all things that pertain to life and godliness." Everything I need to know of a religious nature has been revealed in the Bible. 1 Peter 4:11 says that if I speak, I must speak "as the oracles of God." If God would have wanted us to observe the birth of Christ, he most assuredly would have told us!

How should I remember Jesus? 
God has left three memorials to Christ -- all of which point to His death and resurrection.

First, water baptism reminds us of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (Romans 6:3-4).
Second, the Lord's supper is a constant reminder of His death. As we partake of the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine, we "proclaim the Lord's death till He comes" (1 Corinthians 11:26).
Third, our worship on the Lord's day, the first day of the week, reminds us of His resurrection (Matthew 28:1; Acts 20:7; Revelation 1:10).

God does not want His Son remembered as a baby lying in a manger, but as the suffering Saviour and now resurrected Redeemer.

by David Padfield

The First Christmas Tree Lights - A Christmas Legend

Martin Luther was composing a sermon to preach at the church, and so he was not noticing that he was dawdling, and it was getting very dark.

In the German woods in those days the forests were the homes of wolves, bears and boar, so Martin was a little afraid, especially when the night sounds began. He hurried along, saying a prayer for comfort as he went. Then he looked up through the trees, tiny pricks of light, twinkling blue and silver. At first he was puzzled, then he realized - stars of course, lights from heaven to guide and comfort. It was a star which led the wise men to the stable on that first Christ. God's light sent to guide us through the darkest night.

Martin thought that this was a splendid theme for his sermon, and, feeling bolder now he felt himself safe in God's hands, he looked around for a small tree. This little fir tree he pulled up, and took home to his family.

In 17th century Germany, it was the custom to have a candelabra shaped in a sort of triangle. This held candles throughout the Christmas season. It was also the custom in many homes to have a Christmas tree, and often these were hung upside-down from the ceiling beams. They were often not decorated at all, just there as a reminder that the shape of the tree, triangular, represented the three persons of God - God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

Martin took home the little tree, but he did not hang it up on the beam. Instead he set it in a pot on the table. Then he took the candles from the candelabra, and fastened them to the little tree.

He then lit the candles, and as the flames flickered through the branches, he gathered his family around the table and told them about his walk through the dark wood. Just as he was beginning to get really frightened, he said, he saw the stars twinkling encouragingly, as if God was saying "Don't be afraid, for I am with you."

God's light shines through the darkest night for everyone," he said, "but sometimes we have to look up to see it."

Legend has it that this was the first time a candle was put on a Christmas tree.  

by Maria Hubert

Chronology of Santa Claus

he following are based on documented evidence. It is obvious that the pagan deities and folklore go back beyond A.D.; and the custom of giftgiving was practiced by peoples of the Ancient World, thus this list is accurate but incomplete.

270-280AD Birth of St. Nicholas, who was to become the most accurate and actual ancestor of Santa Claus. He was ordained Bishop whilst still a very young man, and spent his life helping the poor and underpriviledged. He loved children and often went out at night disguised in a hooded cloak, to leave necessary gifts of money, clothing or food at the windows of unfortunate families.

c.343AD St. Nicholas died on the 6th December.

c.540AD There was an elaborate Basilica built over his tomb, and dedicated to the saint.

c.600AD The Saxons which invaded and settled Britain had the custom of giving human characteristics to the weather elements, welcoming the characters of King Frost, Lord Snow etc. to their homes in the hopes that the elements would look kindly on them. They would dress an actor in a pointed cap and cloak or cape, and drape him with Ivy, bringing him into their midst, and bidding him join their feast. He was to represent the Season, and would be treated with all respect, and drink toasts to him.

c.800AD The Vikings brought with them their beliefs in the Northern deities and Elementals, and their main god Odin, who in the guise of his December character came to earth dressed in a hooded cloak, to sit and listen to his people and see if they are contented or not. It was said that he carried a satchel full of bounty which he distributed to the needy or worthy. He was portrayed as a Sage with long white beard and hair.

I have seen no written proof of the fact, but it is probable that, like the Saxons, they dressed a man to represent Odin in his circuit of good works.

842AD First written life of St. Nicholas listing all his miracles, by Methodius, Bishop of Constantinople.

c.850AD The Clergy of Cologne Cathedral were commemorating the death of the saint by giving fruit and cookies to the boys of the cathedral school, on the 6th December.

987AD Nicholas became Patron Saint of Russia

By this time, his fame had spread far and wide, and he was adopted by many guilds and groups as their patron, including: Sailors; Children; Spinsters; Pawnbrokers. All bearing a direct reasoning to the stories told about Nicholas. As patron saint of sailors, his effigy was the figurehead of many ships, and thus his cult spread across the seas to Britain, (and later to the New World).

1087AD Italian Merchants steal the bones of St. Nicholas from his tomb in Demre, and take them to Bari, Italy. This was unofficially approved by the Church, which was anxious incase the shrine of the saint was desecrated in the many wars and attacks in the region. Also, by that time, the break between the Universal Church creating Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, was a contributing factor. The Roman Church felt that the bones of this most popular of saints should be in their safe keeping!

1119AD Life of St. Nicholas written by a Norman monk named Jean.

c.1120 Nuns in Belgium and France were giving gifts to the children of the poor, and those in their care, on the Saints Feast Day, 6th December.

1150AD Guace, a Norman French scribe to the royal household, wrote the life of Nicholas as Metric Poems for use as sermons

1200AD Hilarius, who studied under Peter Abelard, wrote the first 'musical'play about Nicholas .

1300AD Until this time Nicholas was portrayed with a short dark beard, like an Eastern Bishop. Belief in Odin, flying through the skies on his eight legged white horse, Sleipnir, with his long white beard flowing, was superimposed over the saints characteristics, and he developed a white beard. In Germanic countries he was further overlaid with the character of 'Winterman' who supposedly came down from the mountains with the snows, dressed in furs and skins, heralding winter. This character was also known in Scandinavia, where the Laps believed that he herded the reindeer down to lower pastures, and this was a sign that the winter snows were coming.

Laps homes had one opening, which was both door and smoke hole. They were dome shaped houses, usually covered with skins, and usually with top openings. A reason for the subsequent romantic story that Santa comes down the chimney.

1400AD Over 500 songs and hymns had been written in honour of Nicholas by this date.

1492AD Christopher Columbus arrived in Haiti on December 6th, naming the port St. Nicholas in thanks for the safe journey.

1500AD More than 700 churches in Britain alone, were dedicated to St. Nicholas by this date.

There is some small evidence to support the fact that in Europe, street parades were held led by a man dressed in Bishops robes and Mitred hat, riding a horse, on the feast of St. Nicholas, in the late middle ages.

In Britain, each parish would employ a man from outside the parish to dress in long hooded guise, and go to each home leaving a small gift and taking back any important news of the needy to the priests.

1616AD Ben Jonson presented his play, 'Christmas, his Masque' at the Court of King James . In this the Season of Christmas is represented by an actor, and his entourage consists of the special characteristics of Christmas impersonate. Minc'd Pie, Plum Pudding etc.

1626AD A fleet of ships, led by the 'GOEDE VROWE' (Goodwife), which had a figurehead of St. Nicholas, left Holland for the New World. They purchased some land from the Iroquois, for $24, named the village 'NEW AMSTERDAM' (Now New York), and erected a statue in the square to St. Nicholas.

1645AD A Broadsheet appeared on the streets of London, taunting the Government by a humorous political 'scandal' about the conviction and imprisonment of Christmas, and the Hue and Cry after his escape therefrom.

1647AD Christmas was banned in England, and the traditional mumming plays were visited by Father Christmas, who issued a taunting challenge to the government. "In comes I, Old Father Christmas, Be I welcome or be I not, I hope that Christmas will ne'er be forgot"

1678AD A book was published in LOndon entitled 'The Examination and Tryal of old Father Christmas' and his clearing by Jury.

From the 17th - 19th century it was the country mummers plays which kept Father Christmas alive in Britain. With the 'cleansing' of religious popery, it is interesting to note that the saintly bishop, represented by the Parish giftbringing visitor was replaced once more by the half pagan Impersonation of the Element or Season of Christmas.

1651AD The State of Massachusettes, settled by English Puritans, banned all observation of Christmas. 1664AD New Amsterdam was fought over and won by the British, who named it New York. They first banned St. Nicholas, and his statue fell. But later came to accept the pleasures of the festival of the saint, not associating it with Christmas, it being held on December 6th.

1773AD St. Nicholas first made the news in the New York Gazette which referred to him as otherwise known as St. A. Claus.

1809AD American writer, Washington Irving, described St. Nicholas in his 'History of New York', in a description of the figurehead on the ship Goede Vrowe, as being ..."equipped with a low brimmed hat, huge pair of Flemish hose and a pipe that reached to the end of the bowsprit....."

1810AD The New York Historical Society held the first official St. Nicholas celebration, and the occasion was commemorated with the production of the first portrait of St. Nicholas in the USA, and a full description of his characteristics.

1821AD A learned professor, student of European folklore, and poet, Reverend Clement Moore, gathered together all the elements of European lore, deities and folk-characters, added them to the descriptions of his fellow countrymen at the Historical Society and Washington Irving, and created a poem which was to become the gospel of Santa Claus for every writer and artist for a century to come. Called 'A visit from St. Nicholas ' or 'The night before Christmas' But he did this poem for his children, and when it was published by a friend, Moore did not allow his name to be associated with it until 1837.

There were subsequently many different publications, each illustrated according to the characteristics dictated by the poem, published from 1823 onwards, and while Thomas Nast has been attributed with being the first to illustrate Santa Claus, this assumption has long since been corrected by a vast number of earlier illustrations being found.

1863AD Thomas Nast did a political cartoon of Santa entitled 'Santa in Camp', for Harpers Weekly Journal. Dressed in Stars and Stripes Santa had joined the civil war on the side of General Grant in the North .

Perhaps he could have also appeared (being Santa, and strictly neutral) dressed in rebel gray for the South, but if so it was a private drawing as the South did not have the publishing resources of the North.

1864-1886AD Thomas Nast continued to draw Santa Claus every year, and became known as THE Santa Claus artist of the mid-1900's.

Meanwhile Britain was importing illustrations and cards depicting Santa Claus from Germany. He was called Father Christmas by the English, following the 17th. changes, and that name stuck. He was usually represented as a tall, almost aesthetic character, saintly and stern rather than the 'Jolly Elf' character being portrayed by the Americans.

1860's The English custom of a visit from Father Christmas was revived and established as the character visiting on Christmas Eve and leaving gifts for children in their stockings. Images, dolls and artwork from Germany helped to strengthen this custom.

The Germanic images showed him as a saint, in bishops robes, as a winterman in furs, as a saintly old man, often seen in the company of the Holy Child, and as a giftbringer in robes of every colour from brown, white, green blue to golds, pinks and red. Even in this latter guise, his countenance was serious more often than jolly, though laughing Santas did appear. These were usually those which were influenced by the American imagery, and intended for export to the USA.

1870's SantaClaus began to put in appearances in Department stores in the USA and Canada.

1873 Louis Prang of Boston published the first American Christmas Card. His images showed Santa Claus much in the same tradition as the earlier American images, but with a softer, gentler look. More the saintly old gent than the jolly old elf.

1890's Father Christmas began to appear in English Stores.

1922AD Norman Rockwell created a perfect blend of saintly and jolly when he created Santa for the Saturday Evening Post.

1931AD Coca Cola began their major promotion using Santa to promote their drink. Their artist, Haddon Sundblom created Santa in his own image! It is the Coca-Cola Santa which springs to mind now as the traditional Santa.

1948AD Department Stores in Britain increased the thrill of their Santa Grotto with train rides, sleigh rides, trip to the moon and elaborate animated scenes.

c. mid-1950's English Father Christmas slowly gives way to American Santa Claus.

1980's European traditions of Giftbringers begin to give way to Santa Claus. Spains's Three Kings , Italy's Befana, and Sweden's Tomte in particular have all given way to Santa as the anticipated Giftbringer, sometimes even as an additional giftbringer.

The Chronological History of the Christmas Tree

As told by Countess Maria Hubert von Staufer
St. Boniface Story
Why do we have a decorated Christmas Tree? In the 7th century a monk from Crediton, Devonshire, went to Germany to teach the Word of God. He did many good works there, and spent much time in Thuringia, an area which was to become the cradle of the Christmas Decoration Industry.

Luther's treeLegend has it that he used the triangular shape of the Fir Tree to describe the Holy Trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The converted people began to revere the Fir tree as God's Tree, as they had previously revered the Oak. By the 12th century it was being hung, upside-down, from ceilings at Christmas time in Central Europe, as a symbol of Christianity.

The first decorated tree was at Riga in Latvia, in 1510. In the early 16th century, Martin Luther is said to have decorated a small Christmas Tree with candles, to show his children how the stars twinkled through the dark night.

Christmas Markets
In the mid 16th century, Christmas markets were set up in German towns, to provide everything from gifts, food and more practical things such as a knife grinder to sharpen the knife to carve the Christmas Goose! At these fairs, bakers made shaped gingerbread and wax ornaments for people to buy as souvenirs of the fair, and take home to hang on their Christmas Trees.

The best record we have is that of a visitor to Strasbourg in 1601. He records a tree decorated with "wafers and golden sugar-twists (Barley sugar) and paper flowers of all colors;. The early trees were biblically symbolic of the Paradise Tree in the Garden of Eden. The many food items were symbols of Plenty, the flowers, originally only red (for Knowledge) and White (for Innocence).

Tinsel was invented in Germany around 1610. At that time real silver was used, and machines were invented which pulled the silver out into the wafer thin strips for tinsel. Silver was durable, but tarnished quickly, especially with candlelight. Attempts were made to use a mixture of lead and tin, but this was heavy and tended to break under its own weight so was not so practical. So silver was used for tinsel right up to the mid-20th century.

The First English Trees
Decorating a Victorian householdThe Christmas Tree first came to England with the Georgian Kings who came from Germany. At this time also, German Merchants living in England decorated their homes with a Christmas Tree. The British public were not fond of the German Monarchy, so did not copy the fashions at Court, which is why the Christmas Tree did not establish in Britain at that time. A few families did have Christmas trees however, probably more from the influence of their German neighbors than from the Royal Court.

The decorations were Tinsel, silver wire ornaments, candles and small beads. All these had been manufactured in Germany and East Europe since the 17th century. The custom was to have several small trees on tables, one for each member of the family, with that persons gifts stacked on the table under the tree.

The Victorian and Albert Tree

In 1846, the popular Royals, Queen Victoria and her German Prince, Albert, were illustrated in the Illustrated London News. They were standing with their children around a Christmas Tree. Unlike the previous Royal family, Victoria was very popular with her subjects, and what was done at Court immediately became fashionable - not only in Britain, but with fashion-conscious East Coast American Society. The English Christmas Tree had arrived!

Decorations were still of a 'home-made' variety. Young Ladies spent hours at Christmas Crafts, quilling snowflakes and stars, sewing little pouches for secret gifts and paper baskets with sugared almonds in them. Small bead decorations, fine drawn out silver tinsel came from Germany together with beautiful Angels to sit at the top of the tree. Candles were often placed into wooden hoops for safety.

Mid-Victorian Tree
In 1850's Lauscha began to produce fancy shaped glass bead garland for the trees, and short garland made from necklace 'bugles' and beads. These were readily available in Germany but not produced in sufficient quantities to export to Britain. The Rausch Golden Angel was a common sight. Literally, 'Tingled-angel', bought from the Thuringian Christmas markets, and dressed in pure gilded tin.
The 1860's English Tree had become more innovative than the delicate trees of earlier decades. Small toys were popularly hung on the branches, but still most gifts were placed on the table under the tree.

Around this time, the Christmas tree was spreading into other parts of Europe. The Mediterranean countries were not too interested in the tree, preferring to display only a Creche scene. Italy had a wooden triangle platform tree called as 'CEPPO'. This had a Creche scene as well as decorations.

The German tree was beginning to suffer from mass destruction! It had become the fashion to lop off the tip off a large tree to use as a Christmas Tree, which prevented the tree from growing further. Statutes were made to prevent people having more than one tree.

Just as the first trees introduced into Britain did not immediately take off, the early trees introduced into America by the Hessian soldiers were not recorded in any particular quantity. The Pennsylvania German settlements had community trees as early as 1747.

America being so large, tended to have 'pockets' of customs relating to the immigrants who had settled in a particular area, and it was not until the communications really got going in the 19th century, that such customs began to spread. Thus references to decorated trees in America before about the middle of the 19th century are very rare.

By the 1870's, Glass ornaments were being imported into Britain from Lauscha, in Thuringia. It became a status symbol to have glass ornaments on the tree, the more one had, the better ones status! Still many home-made things were seen. The Empire was growing, and the popular tree topper was the Nation's Flag, sometimes there were flags of the Empire and flags of the allied countries. Trees got very patriotic.

They were imported into America around 1880, where they were sold through stores such as FW Woolworth. They were quickly followed by American patents for electric lights (1882), and metal hooks for safer hanging of decorations onto the trees (1892)

High Victorian Trees
The 1880's saw a rise of the Aesthetic Movement. At this time Christmas Trees became a glorious hotchpotch of everything one could cram on; or by complete contrast the aesthetic trees which were delicately balanced trees, with delicate colors, shapes and style. they also grew to floor standing trees. The limited availability of decorations in earlier decades had kept trees by necessity to, usually table trees. Now with decorations as well as crafts more popular than ever, there was no excuse. Still a status symbol, the larger the tree - the more affluent the family which sported it.

The High Victorian of the 1890's was a child's joy to behold! As tall as the room, and jammed with glitter and tinsel and toys galore. Even the 'middleclasses' managed to over-decorate their trees. It was a case of 'anything goes'. Everything that could possibly go on a tree went onto it.

By 1900 themed trees were popular. A color theme set in ribbons or balls, a topical idea such as an Oriental Tree, or an Egyptian Tree. They were to be the last of the great Christmas Trees for some time. With the death of Victoria in 1901, the Nation went into mourning and fine trees were not really in evidence until the nostalgia of the Dickensian fashion of the 1930's.

The American Treee
In America, Christmas Trees were introduced into several pockets - the German Hessian Soldiers took their tree customs in the 18th century. In Texas, Cattle Barons from Britain took their customs in the 19th century, and the East Coast Society copied the English Court tree customs.

Settlers from all over Europe took their customs also in the 19th century. Decorations were not easy to find in the shanty towns of the West, and people began to make their own decorations. Tin was pierced to create lights and lanterns to hold candles which could shine through the holes. Decorations of all kinds were cutout, stitched and glued. The General Stores were hunting grounds for old magazines with pictures, rolls of Cotton Batting (Cotton Wool), and tinsel, which was occasionally sent from Germany or brought in from the Eastern States. The Paper 'Putz' or Christmas Crib was a popular feature under the tree, especially in the Moravian Dutch communities which settled in Pennsylvania.

The British tree in the 20th century
After Queen Victoria died, the country went into mourning, and the tree somehow died with her for a while in many homes. While some families and community groups still had large tinsel strewn trees, many opted for the more convenient table top tree. These were available in a variety of sizes, and the artificial tree, particularly the Goose Feather Tree, became popular. These were originally invented in the 1880's in Germany, to combat some of the damage being done to Fir trees in the name of Christmas.

In America, the Addis Brush Company created the first brush trees, using the same machinery which made their toilet brushes! These had an advantage over the feather tree in that they would take heavier decorations.

After 1918, because of licensing and export problems, Germany was not able to export its decorations easily. The market was quickly taken up by Japan and America, especially in Christmas Tree lights.

Britain's Tom Smith Cracker Company which has exported Christmas goods for over three decades, began to manufacture trees themselves for a short while.

In the 1930's There was a revival of Dickensian nostalgia, particularly in Britain. Christmas cards all sported Crinoline ladies with muffs and bonnets popular in the 1840's. Christmas Trees became large, and real again, and were decorated with many bells, balls and tinsel, and with a beautiful golden haired angel at the top. But wartime England put a stop to many of these trees. It was forbidden to cut trees down for decoration, and with so many raids, many people preferred to keep their most precious heir loom Christmas tree decorations carefully stored away in metal boxes, and decorated only a small table top tree with home-made decorations, which could be taken down into the shelters for a little Christmas cheer, when the air-raid sirens went.

Large trees were erected however in public places to give moral to the people at this time.
Postwar Britain saw a revival of the nostalgic again. people needed the security of Christmas, which is so unchanging in a changing world, as one of the symbols to set them back on their feet. Trees were as large as people could afford. Many poorer families still used the table top Goose feather trees, Americas Addis Brush Trees were being imported into Britain, and these became immensely popular for a time. But the favorites were still real trees. The popular decorations were all produced by a British manufacturer, Swan brand. and sold by FW Woolworth in Britain. Translucent plastic lock together shapes, Honeycomb paper Angels, 'glow-in the -dark icicles; also Polish glass balls and birds In South Wales, where real trees were often difficult to find in the rural areas, Holly Bushes were decorated.

The mid-1960's saw another change. A new world was on the horizon, and modernist ideas were everywhere. Silver aluminum trees were imported from America. The 'Silver Pine' tree, patented in the 1950's, was designed to have a revolving light source under it, with colored gelatine 'windows, which allowed the light to shine in different shades as it revolved under the tree. No decorations were needed for this tree.

Decorations became sparse. Glass balls and lametta created an 'elegant' modern tree. Of course, many families ignored fashion and carried on putting their own well loved decorations on their trees!

America made a return to Victorian nostalgia in the 1970's, and it was a good decade later that Britain followed the fashion. By the at first this was a refreshing look, and manufacturers realizing the potential created more and more fantastic decorations. Some American companies specialized in antique replica, actually finding the original makers in Europe to recreate wonderful glass ornaments, real silver tinsel and pressed foil 'Dresdens'.

Real Christmas Trees were popular, but many housewives preferred the convenience of the authentic looking artificial trees which were being manufactured. If your room was big enough, you could have a 14 foot artificial Spruce right there in your living room, without a single dropped needle - and so good that it fooled everyone at first glance. There are even pine scented sprays to put on the tree for that 'real tree smell'!

The late 1990's tree has taken the Victorian idea, but with new themes and conceptual designs. The Starry Night Tree, The Twilight Tree, The Snow Queen Tree.....

These trees are still with us - what will the [future] bring?

He Chose to Lie as an Infant in a Manger

Though heaven was his habitation and earth his footstool, he chose to lie as an infant in a manger, surrounded by horses and camels and mules.

Though he laid the foundations of the earth, and worlds without number had rolled into orbit at his word, he chose to come into mortality among the beasts of the field.

Though he had worn a kingly crown in the eternal courts on high, he chose to breathe as his first mortal breath the stench of a stable.

Though he would one day come forth - born then in glorious immortality - with all power in heaven and on earth, for now, as the helpless child of a peasant girl, he chose to begin the days of his probation as none of Adam's race had ever done before.

And there, even in such a birth, he was rejected by his people, symbolically at least, for none in the recesses and rooms of the inn had seen fit to make room for a weary woman, great with child, who needed above all at that hour the kind hands and skill of those who had attended her cousin Elisabeth in more fortuitous circumstances.

But with it all, a God had come into mortality, inheriting from his mother the power of mortality and from hi Father the power of immortality. Soon the infinite and eternal atonement - sought and desired by the righteous for four thousand years - would be a living reality.  Soon all that had been hoped and promised and foreseen would come to pass. Is it any wonder that angelic choirs, even now, were awaiting the cue to sing forth great anthems of praise, some of which would be heard by shepherd ears on the nearby Judean hills!

- Excerpt from "The Mortal Messiah" by Bruce R. McConkie


Hawaiian Christmas: Jimmy Buffett Mele Kalikimaka

Numbah One Day of Christmas - Hawaiian Christmas Song

Numbah one day of Christmas My tutu gave to me 1 mynah bird in one papaya tree 
Numbah two day of Christmas My tutu gave to me 2 coconuts 
Numbah three day of Christmas My tutu gave to me 3 dried squid 
Numbah four day of Christmas My tutu gave to me 4 flower leis
Numbah five day of Christmas My tutu gave to me 5 big fat pigs
Numbah six day of Christmas My tutu gave to me 6 hula lessons
Numbah seven day of Christmas My tutu gave to me 7 shrimps a swimming
Numbah eight day of Christmas My tutu gave to me 8 ukuleles
Numbah nine day of Christmas My tutu gave to me 9 pounds of poi
Numbah ten day of Christmas My tutu gave to me 10 cans of beer
Numbah eleven day of Christmas My tutu gave to me 11 missionaries 
Numbah twelve day of Christmas My tutu gave to me 12 televisions


The Bells Of Christmas - Kenny Loggins

Imagine a boy
Kneeling by the window
Lookin' out across the driveway at the rain
Will it always rain?

I remember the bells, comin' from the churchyard
And I thought they played their music just for me
And day by day, the rain turned to snow
Now, I don't hear them anymore

The bells of Christmas
Will ring for us again
When we truly do believe
What Christmas really means

So light a candle that every man may see
The world of hope and promise
Like the one we knew back when and
We'll ring the bells of Christmas once again

There was a girl, lived around the corner
With eyes as black as Mary's must have been
I wonder, does she miss her friend?
And I remember the day

All the bells were ringing
As I watched her cross the churchyard in the snow
And all my searching for all I lack
Is just trying to get that feeling back

The bells of Christmas
Will ring for us again
When we truly do believe
What Christmas really means

So light a candle that every man may see
A world of hope and promise
Like the one we knew back when and
We'll ring the bells of Christmas once again

The future of the world, they say
Is in the children's hands
Perhaps if we could let them lead
We'd come to understand

The bells of Christmas
Will ring for us again
When we truly do believe
What Christmas really means

So light a candle that every man may see
The world of hope and promise
Like the one we knew back when and
We'll ring the bells of Christmas once again

Christmas Trivia: True or False?

The answers to the following can be found within the various posts on this blog...

Holiday Names and Greetings

1. “X-mas” is an irreverent, non-Christian name for the holiday.

2. “Noel” comes from Old French, meaning “new birth”.

3. “Yule” comes from an ancient Viking celebration of the turning of the sun.

4. “Feliz Navidad” directly translated into English means “Happy Birth”.

5. “Mele Kalikimaka” is Hawaiian for “enjoy the holiday feast”.

The Nativity of Jesus

6. Modern calendar years are based on the verified year of the birth of Christ.

7. The number of visitors, known as Magi, Wise Men or Kings, was three.

8. The Wise Men, or Kings, came to see the newborn baby lying in the manger.

9. Early Christians believed Christ was born on December 25th.

10. Shepherds watched their flocks on the cold winter’s night of Christ’s birth.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

11. The Twelve Days of Christmas begin on December 13th.

12. The gifts given on each day in the song represent items at a Christmas party.

13. The “Two Turtle Doves” represented the Old and New Testaments.

14. The last two gifts were 11 lords a leaping and 12 drummers drumming.

Santa Claus

15. St. Nicholas, who preceded Santa Claus, was born in Germany in 1622.

16. Santa’s flying sleigh and reindeer originated from stories in the 1800’s.

17. Although he’s known by many names in many places, Santa is always a man.

18. Kris Kringle was the name of an early Dutch Santa Claus figure.

19. Santa Claus is largely unknown in places like Japan and China.


20. Rudolph’s story was a promotional creation of Montgomery Ward stores.

21. Blixen is the name of Santa’s eighth reindeer.

22. Donner, the seventh reindeer, is sometimes incorrectly called Donder.

23. The reindeer were first named in “Twas the Night Before Christmas”.

24. Instead of reindeer, in Sweden, a goat pulls Santa’s (Tomten’s) sled.

Christmas Trees

25. The custom of decorating trees for Christmas originated in Germany.

26. Before the 1500’s, Christmas trees were considered a pagan custom.

27. Martin Luther is credited with first putting candles, or lights, on the tree.

28. There is no mention of a Christmas tree in Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol.”

29. Hanging the tree upside down from the ceiling used to be popular.


30. The first Christmas card was created and sent in London in 1840.

31. The most popular selling Christmas Carol of all time is “Silent Night”.

32. Mistletoe used to be hung for enemies to meet under and call a truce.

33. Poinsettias were first brought to the U.S. from Mexico by Mr. Poinsett.

34. Christmas mince pie contained rabbit, pheasant and partridge meat.

35. “Nog” in eggnog refers to a heavy noggin (head) from drinking too much.

36. The tradition of filling stockings originated in the country of Turkey.

37. Sleigh rides with jingle bells is a favorite Christmas activity in Australia.

38. Celebrating Christmas was once outlawed in Merry Olde England.

39. Candy canes were created to keep children quiet during church services.

40. Swedish Christmas celebrates St. Lucia, who helped needy people in Italy.


1. False. “X” comes from the Greek letter that start’s Christ’s name and represents Christ.
2. True. Oui, oui. Noel is tres French, an old word which is related to the nouvelle, meaning “new”.
3. True. The word “yule” is old Norse for wheel, meaning the wheel in the sky that turns to give more light.
4. True. “Feliz” means “happy”. “Navidad” translates to nativity, which also means birth.
5. False. It means nothing in Hawaiian. It is an attempt to spell English “Merry Christmas” using Hawaiian letters.
6. False. There is no historical verification to the year of Christ’s birth. Some scholars believe it was in 2 to 4 B.C.
7. False. Three gifts are mentioned, but no number of the visitors is given. Some believe there were 12 or more.
8. False. They arrived well after Christ was born, and most likely saw him inside a home in a regular bed.
9. False. No exact date was known. When Romans became Christian, the Dec. 25th date replaced a pagan holiday.
10. False. Shepherds were not in the fields with their flocks during winter. This most likely occurred in the spring.
11. False. They start on Christmas Day, Dec. 25th, and last until Jan. 6th, the Eastern Orthodox Christmas Day.
12. True. In Old England, a party was held on “12th Night”. All the gifts were represented through food or fun.
13. True. The gifts and numbers were created to represent / disguise gospel principles for early persecuted believers.
14. False. There are 10 lords a leaping, not 11. Correct answer: 11 pipers piping, 12 drummers drumming.
15. False. St. Nicholas was born in Asia Minor, now known as Turkey, sometime during the 3rd Century.
16. False. The idea originated from early legends of Viking gods flying through the skies on animal-pulled sleighs.
17. False. In Italy, the gift giver is an old woman known as La Befana. In parts of Russia, she is known as Babushka.
18. False. Kris Kringle is an Americanization of the German gift giver “Christ-kindl”, or “Christ Child”.
19. False. Santa Claus has become a popular holiday figure in both Japan and China, not necessarily for Christmas.
20. True. It was a 1939 promotional gimmick given to those who did Christmas shopping at Montgomery Ward.
21. False. The name of the eighth reindeer is spelled Blitzen, not Blixen.
22. False. The original text of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” spells the seventh reindeer’s name as Donder.
23. True. “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Clement C. Moore was the first text that named the eight reindeer.
24. True. Although many reindeer are in Northern Sweden, Tomten rides a sled through the forest pulled by a goat.
25. False. The Germans adapted modern tree traditions from customs of the ancient Romans and Celtic druids.
26. False. 7th Century Catholic monk St. Boniface used the indoor evergreen’s triangle shape to teach of the Godhead.
27. True. Legend claims Martin Luther first put candles on his tree, to represent the light of Christ for his children.
28. True. Christmas trees did not become popular in England until after Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol”.
29. True. Many trees were originally hung upside down in Old Europe and in early Pennsylvania settlements.
30. True. John C. Horsley created his own card in 1840. The idea caught on, and his card was re-printed in 1843.
31. False. Although “Silent Night” is popular in many countries, Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” is the top seller.
32. True. Used for many things, mistletoe brought people together, including those who needed to kiss and make-up.
33. True. Joel Roberts Poinsett, Ambassador to Mexico, introduced the “Holy Night Flowers” to the U.S. in 1825.
34. True. Originally, mince pie was a meat pie. Fruits and spices were later added, and then the meat was dropped.
35. False. “Nog” is another term for “grog”, which is a rum-based drink. Eggnog is sometimes served with rum.
36. True. St. Nicholas, who lived in Turkey, is claimed to have assisted the needy by leaving gold coins in stockings.
37. False. Christmas in Australia occurs during summertime. A beach barbecue is a popular Christmas Day event.
38. True. From 1645 to 1660, because of Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans, celebrating Christmas was illegal.
39. True. A Cologne Cathedral Choirmaster gave shepherds crook-shaped candy to kids during long nativity services.
40. True. Though celebrated in Sweden, Lucia’s legend began with her Christian services and martyrdom in Italy.

Correct Answers Rating:
40 - Cheater, you peeked! Not even Santa knew all of these.
35 to 39 - Next in line to be Santa. How’s your “ho, ho, ho”?
30 to 34 - A true Christmas elf. Santa’s looking to promote you.
25 to 29 - On Santa’s Nice List, but you could do better.
20 to 24 - Rockin’ around the Christmas tree, but you’re missing some good stuff.
15 to 19 - You like Christmas, but your favorite holiday is Halloween, right?
10 to 14 - Christmas is coming, and you haven’t got a ha’penny. God bless you.
Less than 10 - Bah humbug. You need to pay more attention if you want more than coal in your stocking. Better watch out or you’ll get run over by a reindeer.